Meet Curtis Walker, Welding instructor

Welding instructor Curtis Walker takes a break in the shop
Curtis Walker started his career as a welding student at OC and gained years of experience in diverse industries before returning to teach

'When your students start welding better than you, that is a good day'

Q: What is your education and background?

A: In 2000, I attended Okanagan College for the Welding C Level program, which is known today as entry-level foundation training. I enrolled in the program after speaking with a friend who worked as a Heavy Duty Mechanic because I had working in my family’s business for years and was looking for a change. After training, I alternated between working for a local stainless steel fabrication shop, who specialized in wine/beer equipment, during the summers and in the winters I would work on the oil rigs. Eventually, I just worked on the pipeline and did that for 15 years.

Q: What is your area of interest?

A: Welding, and some motorsport mechanics. No woodwork!

Q: When did you know you had found your discipline?

A: I didn’t have any family members in the trades, but after speaking with my friend about welding, I signed up for the welding program at OC without actually trying welding. Once I was accepted into the program, I decided to try MIG welding right before the first day of class. I really liked it and was excited to start training towards a career I knew I’d enjoy. As for becoming a welding instructor, I noticed there are some interesting similarities to classes and the industry. My crew of students always seems to be changing, just like when working in the pipeline industry. Just like in the industry, I enjoy meeting new people on a regular basis and helping them learn new skills.

Q: Why did you choose to work at Okanagan College?

A: I had a great connection with my instructors while attending training here. I would often return to OC to recertifying my welding tickets and chat with the instructors. One day, an OC welding instructor told me that I should consider teaching because of my calm, patient nature. After some thought and further research, I decided that instructing was something I wanted to pursue. The staff I have met and worked with at OC have always been supportive. Working here feels like you are part of a team where people seem to always have your back. I feel fortunate to still be able to do something I love while being able to work close to home.

Q: What do you like most about the work you do?

A: Working as a welding on pipeline projects or construction, you get to meet so many great people from around the country. I have been able to make friends from across Canada and down in the states just from working on different projects. As a welder, you are always learning new things. Just the other day, I discovered a new type of stainless steel welding rod and was able to bring a sample in to show the students and staff who were excited about it too. Those teaching moments are a highlight for me.

Q: Favourite teaching experience?

A:  When your students start welding better than you, that is a good day! I know the student has been challenged with something new, has struggled but continued to practice and now they are succeeding. I promote teamwork in my classes so if someone needs help, we all step in to encourage them whether that’s helping to arrange study groups or involving OC student support services. It’s important for everyone to feel included in the class because it’s easier when we all work together.

Q: Who gave you the best advice you ever received?

A: For welding, “The field way is not always the only way.” Put in the effort to learn and listen to others. Try new techniques that might make your life easier or produce a better outcome.

For instructing, “You make the class.” That was advice from recently retired OC welding instructor, Mike Turigan. You can make the class really fun or make it really hard, but if you balance between instructing the class in a fun and hard way while keeping them busy, your students are going to enjoy the experience while continuing to be motivated to learn new things.

Q: What advice do you have for new students?

A: The way I was brought up is that, “If you’re going to try something, try your best to follow it through and once it’s accomplished then move on to something new.” It helps you gain the skills you can always fall back on and allows you to keep pushing yourself to learn new things.

Q: Why do you think people should study welding?

A: Welding is a skill that can be used in many different trades like heavy mechanical, pipefitting, forestry, aerospace, sheet metal industry and more. It opens up more career opportunities because you can dabble in any trade. For example, I have welding friends who work for mining companies all over the world right now. It’s not just working in the oil and gas industry. Welding is a very diverse trade.

Q: If you could go back in time, is there anything you would do differently?

A: I don’t think I would do anything different. Maybe try more advanced alloy welding or harder titanium while working in the field, but that’s something I still have time to explore.  

Q: Where are you the happiest?

A: In my hot tub. Drinking a cold one. Hanging out with my kids.

Published By Public Affairs on December 8, 2020
Tags: Trades


Spark your skills. Learn a variety of welding processes and use specialized equipment to create a solid bond between metal plate and/or pipe. Welders work on custom fabrication, ship building and repair, pressure vessels, pipelines, structural construction welding, and machinery. 

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