Crafting a Career out of Metal at College of New Caledonia
Metal fabricators are often compared to carpenters. Instead of using wood and nails, however, the fabricator bends, cuts, shapes and welds metal to build structures and products.
CNC’s Metal Fabrication program is your ticket to a career working steel and other metals to build, assemble and repair in a wide variety of manufacturing and construction industries.
“We’re using the same math and many of the same tools a carpenter would,” said CNC Metal Fabrication instructor Steve Plain. “We just do it with metal instead of wood.”
Steve began his trades career more than two decades ago as a carpenter. After a few hot summers and freezing winters working outdoors in the Lower Mainland, however, he was ready for a change. Though the warm and dry shop environment of the trade appealed to him, Steve ultimately loved that metal fabrication allowed him to continue working with his hands.
"It's gratifying to work with your hands to build a finished product from scratch,” he said. “A project could take four hours, a day, or even a couple weeks but at the end of it you see a finished product. It’s honest work.”
Generally, a metal fabricator builds a product, tack welds it, and continues building. This allows production to continue while a specialized welder finishes the product with the appropriate welds. Often, Steve finds those with an interest in welding eventually want to give metal fabrication a try.
“There’s a fair amount of overlap between the two,” he said. “Metal fabricators aren’t able to tack things together for a welder if we can’t weld ourselves. And sometimes the next step for a basic welder is to become a fabricator.”
CNC graduate Scott Denicola spent 10 years working as a welder before enrolling in the college’s metal fabrication program in 2016. Since then, Scott has completed all four levels of metal fabrication and expanded the scope of expertise he brings to his position of shop manager at Omineca Fabricating.
“When I got into welding, there wasn’t much awareness about the metal fabrication trade here,” he said. “People think welders are fabricators. The two go together well but are very different trades. I got to do some fabricating as a welder and became really interested in the building aspect of that trade. It was just a natural progression for me.”
Scott enjoyed his time at CNC and praised the metal fabrication program, instructors and facilities. The best part, however, was that the training was available locally.
“Being able to do this in Prince George was a huge benefit,” Scott said. “It’s extremely difficult for people who have to travel for training, especially if they’re already working. I would never have taken metal fabrication if I had to travel to the Lower Mainland to do it.”
Job opportunities for metal fabricators in Prince George, B.C., and beyond are promising, according to Steve. In Prince George, steel shops are dominated by the manufacturing and repairing sawmill equipment for lumber industry with opportunities also available to work in heavy duty mining, truck and trailer, oil sand industries, and even river jet boat manufacturing.