M’CHIGEENG—For M’Chigeeng metal fabricator Kathryn Corbiere of OneKwe making things out of metal comes pretty naturally, having followed family members into the trade, so when it came to teaching an interest course on welding for women offered by Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute, the proprietor of OneKwe Modern Fabrications was a pretty natural fit.

“It was a great turnout,” she said following the two-day general interest course offered by the Island trade college at the new KTEI trade college building. “It was a bit of a surprise for the first course of its type offered at the new facility.”

“We are pretty excited about the reception the program has received,” said KTEI Registrar Kevin Fuller as he personally greeted the students as they came in the door. “We will be offering a number of general interest courses like this in the future and this is a great start.”

Master electrician Dave Hall took the students through a short tour of the nearly complete trades building before depositing them into the care of Ms. Corbiere.

Ms. Corbiere has been operating her own metal fabricating business for three years and it has proven to be an outstanding success. “I kind of fell into it by fluke,” she said of her entry into the welding trade. “I was sort of following in an older brother’s footsteps. After I had trouble finding work in the industry I sort of stumbled into starting my own business,” she laughed. “I started out with making furniture and so I thought that would be a good place to start out the students as well, making something they could use.”

The welding for women course proved to be so successful, in fact, that the college was caught a little off-guard for equipment, but no one was turned away as Mr. Hall was able to scrounge up enough safety equipment throughout the trades building to kit out the late-comers.

It’s a pass! Valerie Migwans-Beaudin stands on her end table creation.

The women taking the course came from communities across Manitoulin. Although KTEI is a First Nations-based college founded on the traditional teaching approach, courses at the college are open to everyone.

“That is one thing a lot of people don’t realize,” said Mr. Hall. “Anyone can apply to the college and take courses. It’s open to everyone.”

With 19 workstation bays, the welding shop is the first of the hands-on trades classrooms to be put into service, but certainly not the last. Mr. Hall took The Expositor for a short pre-opening tour of the modern trade school facility which is fast nearing completion. In addition to a number of trades workshop classrooms, the facility also boasts a number of standard classrooms as well.

Once the students were bundled into their safety equipment, and the safety basics of that equipment, gloves, coats and specialized welding helmets explained, Ms. Corbiere demonstrated the techniques of MIG welding to the students.

“MIG welding is one of the best for fabricating furniture,” she said, adding that MIG welding has the benefit also being relatively easy to learn. “It’s a great starting point.”

MIG welding is an arc welding process which uses a continuous solid wire electrode that is fed through a unit called a welding gun. The heat from an intense flame causes the wire to melt and form a superheated pool of metal that joins the two base materials together. A shielding gas is also sent through the welding gun that helps protect the weld pool from contamination.

Ms. Corbiere notes that MIG is actually an acronym for “metal inert gas.”

The need for a clean surface in order for the metals to bond was stressed, so shortly after the students were given demonstrations on safety and welding, they set about with wire brushes scrubbing away the oxidation on the pre-cut metal pieces that would form their projects.

The resulting table constructed by each student was tough enough to bear standing on, as Valerie Migwans Beaudin demonstrated after things cooled down on Wednesday evening.

“It was good,” said Little Current’s Norma Hughson, who also took part in the class. Asked if she was going to give up her day job to pursue a new career in metal furniture fabrication Ms. Hughson laughed. “I don’t have a day job now, so nothing to give up.” Retired, Ms. Hughson is kept plenty busy with her volunteer work with the Manitoulin Genealogy Society, and her community decorating handiwork (with other volunteers such as Sheguiandah’s Christine Jones) can be found at the Bass Creek fish watching station, changing with each season.

Keep an eye out for new interest courses and upcoming trade school opportunities advertised in the pages of The Expositor. More information on upcoming offerings can be found be calling KTEI at 705-377-4342 or by visiting them online at www.kenjgewinteg.ca.

OneKwe Modern Fabrications is located in M’Chigeeng and provides custom metal fabrications and design. That can include furniture, sculptures, table frames and metal cutouts of all types and is particularly suited for signage. Many of Ms. Corbiere’s designs can be found at businesses across Manitoulin including The Port in Little Current and The Island Jar.

OneKwe Modern Fabrications can be contacted by phone at 705-348-0095 or by email at kr.corbiere@yahoo.ca.