Sam Lougheed is no stranger to juggling a heavy workload or a busy schedule; it’s just that now, he’ll do it from behind a welding mask.
The single father of two from Penticton is the recipient of the 2015 Randall Enns Welding Award, a $1,000 bursary aimed at assisting students in Okanagan College’s welding program to jumpstart their careers.
After returning to College at age 48, having worked in farming, wind turbines, and other jobs across BC and Alberta, Lougheed, who grew up North of Oliver, found his calling in the welding program.
“Of all the jobs I did over the course of my career, none of them really felt like a career to me,” says Lougheed. “I was getting desperate when I heard about the welding course offered at the College in Penticton. I feel so fortunate that it worked out.”
Luck with the scheduling, and being able to study close to home, proved all the difference. “I was lucky to get into the day shift [the welding class runs in two shifts – day and night] which made it easy enough for me to juggle the schedule of school and daycare for my daughters.”
Although he initially had some apprehension about what it would be like to be in the classroom with students half his age, Lougheed says the program has been a very positive experience.
“It’s worked out so well,” he explains. “All of my classmates are young enough to be my sons, but they’ve been a pleasure to learn with and be around, and my instructor has been great, very supportive, which has made all the difference.”
Lougheed went into the program with some experience in welding, having grown up on a farm and helped repair equipment. He credits this experience as part of the reason for his success and comfort level early in the program.
Recently, Lougheed had the opportunity to meet a fellow welder, Randy Enns, the man who created the award that is helping him with his future.
Enns visited the welding class in Penticton to present the award and shared words of encouragement and tips for starting out in the field.
“I’m very supportive of the College and I feel that everyone should support students,” says Enns.
“The opportunities for tradespeople are incredible. That is one of the key messages I’d like to share with students: once you’ve got a trade and you’ve learned it well, you have tremendous opportunity for financial independence and flexibility. You can chart your own destiny. You can travel the world with your ticket.”
“I hope the award will help support students continuing their education. I hope it will allow them to continue to return and upgrade and keep going with their training.”
When Okanagan College opened its doors in Kelowna as the B.C. Vocational School on Sept. 30, 1963, there were 96 students, nine instructors and eight programs. Enns was one of those 96, a student in the first welding class.
Enns’ decision to pursue trades training at the College began a 32-year career as a pipefitting welder. During that time, he worked on 21 of the province’s 23 paper mills, mines and dams, and on buildings all over the Okanagan and throughout the province. When the College celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013, Enns returned and spoke to students, nearly 50 years to the day he stepped into his first class.
Earlier this year, Enns created the new award to support students entering the welding program. He and his wife Evelyn are also making legacy gifts to the College, to help future tradespeople in gratitude for the life his career as a welder provided. Evelyn’s legacy gift is intended to support students entering the teaching profession.
“Every trade has its welders—pipefitters, boilermakers, machinists, electricians, iron workers. And every industry is included within these trades: manufacturing, oil and gas, shipyards, hydro, nuclear, forestry, pulp and paper industries, infrastructure—highways etc. mining, hospitals, schools, dams, wineries. The scope of work is huge.”
“It is a very precise trade. And the better you are at it, the more tickets you have, the more opportunities will come to you. However, with so many different procedures and applications, employment can be found for welders of all abilities.”