Trading inspiration

Skilled trades instructors are remotely visiting Hamilton elementary classrooms to teach hands-on skills

The Inspiring Young Minds Skilled Trades Project, an innovative partnership between the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board and Mohawk College has three skilled trades instructors teaching hands-on skills to elementary school students, even if has to be remote right now. 

The program was supposed to happen through in-person visits to Mohawk shops, but COVID-19 closures have temporarily derailed that plan. 

But with the idea to showcase welding, millwright and automotive mechanics, the plan shifted to having the instructors from the Marshall School of Skilled Trades & Apprenticeship join the Grade 6 to 8 classrooms remotely. 

The professors explain their trades, share their own career journeys and the opportunities that exist in their fields, and guide the students through activities with learning outcomes tied to their curriculum. 

Millwright professor John Legree takes students through building and using simple hydraulic lifts. They have to do math calculations of cylinder volume and displacement to figure out performance of the lift. 

Automotive Service Technician professor Dave Currie teaches the basic components of a car and then students put together an electric car. The kids tweak them to make them faster. 

Then they race them down the hall. 

The instructors show job postings in the area and the kids “light up” when they hear the earning potential in welding

Justin Decosemo

Remote demonstrations are more challenging for Welding instructor Justin Decosemo but he leads students through explorations of the effect of heat on different metals and shows how to bend metal, cut with fuel torches, and burn chromium out of stainless steel. 

The elementary schools use Mohawk’s portable virtual reality welding simulators to augment the hands-on learning. 

Students always have questions about jobs in their fields, usually led by: How much do you make? 

The instructors show job postings in the area and the kids “light up” when they hear the earning potential in welding, says Decosemo. 

The three professors say they hope they can open some eyes to the vast opportunities in skilled trades, including stable, high-paying jobs, the ability to travel, and the chance to combine technical skills with entrepreneurship.

Image: Left to right: Justin Decosemo, Welding Professor; Dave Currie, Automotive Service Technician Professor; John Legree, Millwright Professor

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