Dr. Feltham visited Souch Campus to learn about three closely aligned programs: Ironworker, Boilermaker and Structural Steel & Plate Fitter (Steel Fabricator) programs. Boilermakers fabricate and fit boilers, ductwork and pressure vessels; ironworkers stand and erect steel skeletons; and steel fabricators prepare and assemble structural steel and steel vessels.
This is the only campus in Alberta where all three trades receive technical training.
The first stop was the steel fabrication shop where first-year Boilermaker apprentices were working on various projects, including making anchors. By making different projects apprentices learn the importance of angles, of proper orientation and of making things straight.
Watching the apprentices working carefully on their projects it was clear to Dr. Feltham that they were focused and dedicated in their studies and enjoying what they are learning.
To experience a task as a Boilermaker apprentice would, Dr. Feltham and Lawlor took turns tightening a flange on a pressure vessel.
Program chair Glen Gibson taught them first how to perform the task correctly and safely and then how to get an even flat squeeze on the pressure vessel by using a hammer wrench and impact wrench.
As no visit to a trades program would be complete without a competition between Dr. Feltham and Lawlor, the two competed against one another to roll a piece of metal into a circle using the Heller plate rolling machine (a task a steel fabricator would do).
Boilermaker instructor Marvin Androschuk gave a quick safety lesson about the plate rolling machine and then demonstrated how to use it to roll a flat piece of steel into a circle.
Dr. Feltham let Lawlor try first and when time started running out, the two worked together, along with a bit of coaching from Gibson and Androschuk, to achieve a near perfect circle.
To learn about the Ironworker program, Dr. Feltham and Lawlor headed outside to a very different kind of classroom.
Another competition was set up for them; this time they had to lift and fasten a rafter to two columns. The structure itself would have been built by a steel fabricator in the shop, while the act of putting it together is the job of the ironworker.
Dr. Feltham and Lawlor were paired with apprentices and put in lifts alongside the columns. After safety checks were made, they were lifted to the tops of the columns; the rafter was lifted by crane. Dr. Feltham and Lawlor worked from the lifts and raced each other to secure their side of the rafter to the column first.
A few minutes later the work was complete. “It was a tie,” said Dr. Feltham, but Lawlor argued that Dr. Feltham actually won as he was better at tightening.
While this competition had the two trying to beat each other, in the end they were working as a team, something very important in these programs. “These trades are all about teamwork,” said Lawlor.
The final stop was a quick tour through an ironworker shop, where Dr. Feltham learned about some of the work the ironworkers would do, such as working on swing stages, walking up I beams, and learning how to read blueprints and be able to notice errors.
“Beyond the details and technical knowledge these apprentices learn in their programs, what was clearly reinforced today was the importance of safety in doing this work,” said Dr. Feltham as he left Souch Campus in his steel-toed boots, safety goggles and hard hat.