Our RTF team were very excited to have a conversation with Nicole LeClair. Nicole was a recipient of a welding education award from the CWB in 2001 and has long supported the organization. The CWB welding foundation is very proud to support a new student award very dear to Nicole, the Nicole LeClair Welding Bursary award.
Eligible applicants can apply now until May 31st `2019! Apply here
After reading a recent editorial article focused on Nicole’s local impact on the welding industry, it was truly a pleasure to have a candid conversation with her about all things welding. Nicole shares her historical journey around her career path and her ongoing contributions to our industry and the welding community. Thank you to Nicole for joining our Remove The Fume team for a Q & A.
Read our conversation with Nicole on all things welding, teaching and continuing education.
Will you please share with us the story of how you became a welder among the many other aspects of your professional career?
The beginning of a long term career in the welding industry…
It was not a straight path for me initially, as after high school I signed up to attend University in Ottawa, which is where I was born and raised. I didn’t want to go to University, but it was the common thing to do at the time and it was generally expected of people who graduated high school (which is still the case today), to pursue their education at that level. So that’s what I did. The reason I didn’t want to go to University was because I really didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career and I didn’t want to waste my time trying to achieve something that really wouldn’t benefit me in the end. As it turned out, I wound up dropping out of University about 3 months into the term. I simply could NOT see what that degree would do for me and my desire to attend and do the work severely diminished. I would go to the library at the University to sleep until I had to catch my bus to return home, knowing that my parents expected me to be spending the scheduled amount of time there! They were kind enough to pay for my post-secondary education so it was disheartening to break the news to them that I just didn’t want to pursue it any further. They understood and supported my decision, knowing that I would need some time to re-evaluate my options. I worked some full-time hours where I’d been only part-time before at a pharmacy and I bought my first car and really tried to consider what it was that I wanted to pursue. I thought about what I was good at, what was fulfilling to me and what paid a decent wage. My thoughts turned to the trades, as I always liked fixing things and figuring out how things worked and wasn’t afraid to roll up my sleeves and get dirty. As a result of this, I knew the types of trades that didn’t appeal to me, so almost by the process of elimination, I found myself really interested in welding. The thought of fusing 2 pieces of metal together forever and having a hand at something that would outlast my lifetime seemed really powerful to me and something that I wanted to investigate further. As such, I took a night class in oxy-fuel welding, which was enough to ‘spark’ my interest to pursue it even more.
I essentially dropped everything and moved to Sudbury in 1998 to attend Cambrian College where I took a 40 week Welder Fitter program. I was one of two girls in the class of 65 people, and I graduated with 2nd highest honors in the program that year.– Nicole LeClair on first attending college full time in a welding trade program and completing her course with honors.
The next step up the ladder…
Due to this reason, one of Cambrian’s employees approached me and suggested that I take Welding Engineering Technology at one of the two colleges in Ontario that offer it.
That’s exactly what I wound up doing and after that I worked for many years as a technical outside sales person in the GTA looking after clients’ technical needs as they relate to welding machines and gases, consumables and fume extraction, along with other related offerings.
Throughout this part of my career, I enjoyed helping my clients and guiding them in the right direction for their welding needs. The part that I enjoyed the most, however, was the education aspect of that job. I liked being able to educate them about new technology and automation, keeping them up to date with what’s current in the welding world. Due to this affinity for this aspect of the job, it was my new found idea that I should be pursuing a job whereby I could focus just on what made me happiest: teaching and continuing education.
The path of education, teaching foundations and a journey of into new career pathways…
Nicole, you have a long history of accreditation. Please share more of the story of your career path to educate our readers further about your choices and opportunities that lead you to being a teacher for the welding trade.
I reached out to the Associate Dean of Mohawk College 3+ years ago and had a meeting with him, where I was under the impression that we were having an informal chat, where he could tell me about what a day in the life is like for a welding professor there. Little did I know that it was basically a job interview and didn’t know it, because a couple of weeks later, I received a letter of intent to hire. This thrilled me to no end and I happily accepted the offer and have been there ever since. I simply love being able to share my passion of the trade with the future welders of tomorrow.
Welding and continuing education brings the rewards that can lead to a successful and evolving career…
It wasn’t really until I’d spent many years in outside sales that I was able to get a great overview of all that was possible in the welding industry. Working in that capacity, I was able to be exposed to a myriad of opportunities and learn about what other avenues I could take. I wasn’t happy settling as a salesperson to sell a product, I wanted to USE the products and get back to my roots and back to what I loved most about the trade in the first place. I wanted my overalls back! Getting into instructing was the best feeling because I thought to myself “this is where I’m meant to be”……it just felt right! Such a good feeling to finally feel like your path hasn’t led you astray. After leaving my previous job at a welding distributor, I also pursued my level 1 Visual Welding Inspector certification with the Canadian Welding Bureau (CWB). Currently, I am studying to test for my level 2 Inspector’s certificate. I am also awaiting my certificate for the International Welding Technologist (IWT) designation. Last summer, I wrote my Red Seal test through the Ontario College of Trades and passed with flying colours. (Congratulations from our Remove The Fume Team!) Of course, during this time, I also renewed some welding tickets and hold an all-position FCAW and SMAW ticket.
I am a lifelong learner and feel that once your learning curve reaches a plateau, that one should press on for bigger and better. Technology is always changing and we have to keep up with the times and be on the cutting edge in order to be current in our industry.– Nicole LeClair on the benefits of continuing education and life long learning as a discipline for success.
Volunteering is an excellent way to give back knowledge earned through application…
Something else I’ve volunteered to do for many years is to be a welding judge for the Skills Ontario Competition. [Event to be held May 6-8th at the Toronto Congress Centre]. I have been able to judge, side-by-side, with my old welding professors who taught ME so many years ago. It’s a real feeling of coming full circle!
Nicole, we understand that your passion for the welding trade combined with your capacity to nurture and teach about the trade lead you to establish the “The Nicole LeClair Welding Bursary Award” which acquires its funding from many charitable sources. Please share with us the process of application and let our readers know some of the criteria for applying. To donate please visit: easydonate
The joy of giving back and the journey of coming full circle in your career…
Due to my aforementioned feeling of coming full circle in the welding industry, I really wanted to do something to give back to the next generation. I feel strongly that if we can help, then we should. My idea was born in early 2018 and I started to take the steps necessary in making this dream come true. The vision was to help an Ontario student annually who wishes to pursue welding at the post-secondary level. I donated the value of some of my RBC securities in order to establish the fund to sustain itself. However, donations are gladly accepted; the larger the amount, the larger the return on investment will be, thereby making the annual bursary all the bigger too. Spring of `2019 is the first year that the bursary is open for people to apply, with the closing date of May 31st `2019. The amount for this year will be $1500, payable to the educational institution. For those who wish to learn more or to apply or donate, can go to: The Nicole LeClair Welding Bursary Award. An official receipt for tax purposes will be issued. Please visit my page to learn more about me, about the process and visit the Canadian Welding Bureau who is hosting the landing page for the application process. The CWB will also be facilitating this bursary into perpetuity for me, with the value of everything I leave behind, so it will continue to issue awards for many, many years. I, too, was the recipient of a welding bursary back in 2001 (issued by the CWB) and I have always been thankful for the assistance provided to me at the time in my pursuit of getting an education in welding.
We enjoyed our conversation with Nicole on all things welding. Special thanks to Nicole for taking the time to share her career path with our professional community. We look forward to the Nicole LeClair Bursary award contributing to the success’ of future welders. We can build the road to a better tomorrow. Smart informed skilled professionals like Nicole make all the difference.