Thompson Rivers University

Funding helps welders showcase skills

April 5, 2023

TRU Trades faculty and students gather to celebrate FastCut CNC's funding in support of welding students. FastCut CNC's owner Russel Gallup (second from right) and welder Steve Meloche (far right) attended to present the cheque, meet students and hand out company swag.

High expectations lead to successful students. That’s the not-so-secret strategy of Larry Franzen, welding instructor at TRU, and one reason he says so many of his students, past and present, have been medal winners at Skills Canada competitions.

“My students do well at Skills Canada events because I push them hard. A pass is 70 per cent, but for the students that do Skills, the pass is more like 100 per cent in order to be ready to compete. We do a substantial amount of training outside of regular class time to get them ready for competition. I don’t mind because I enjoy seeing my students do well and be successful,” said Franzen, whose students have medalled eight times at the provincial level in the last eight competitions. In the same period, he’s produced two national champions and a third-place finisher.

Two young men stand in front of TRU Welding sign.

Welding students Nolan Ilic and Cole Allan are preparing to compete at the provincial Skills Canada event later this month.

This year, Franzen will be cheering on two TRU medal contenders at the Skills Canada provincial competition April 19 in Abbotsford, Nolan Ilic and Cole Allan. Ilic, a Grade 12 student at NorKam Secondary, is part of the Youth Train in Trades Welding Foundation program. He says he’s working hard to prepare for the secondary portion of the event.

In the post-secondary category, Cole Allan will be vying for gold. He says he’s been putting in as much extra time as he can getting ready for the event.

“The thing I like about welding is you can rarely get it perfect. There is always something you can do to improve,” Allan says. “The instructors here are top-notch and put in the time to make sure you are producing the best work you can.”

Donor recognizes value of trades

This year, the young welders have extra help on their way to compete. A generous donation from local company FastCut CNC Inc. is providing funding for participants’ competition-related expenses. They’ve committed to donating $15,000 over 10 years to help ensure financial need is not a barrier to success for competitors.

“FastCut donations will help the students acquire the tools they need to be competitive. The money will also go towards food and accommodations while on the road whether it be at provincials, nationals or worlds,” says Franzen, adding that FastCut owner Russel Gallup is an alum of TRU. “Russ and the team at FastCut are instrumental to our success at Skills. Whenever and whatever we need, FastCut is there to help.”

Gallup and Steve Meloche, a welder at FastCut and another TRU alum, visited the TRU welding shop recently to present their cheque to the department and hand out stickers and T-shirts to the students. For both men, it was a homecoming of sorts.

“It’s my local university and the one I went to. I know what a good university it is and I know how good the programs are here,” says Gallup. “Being a tradesperson myself, I see how important trades are and that’s why we are providing funding for Skills Canada students. These events are a big deal because we really need to empower trades — because trades get stuff done!”

Skills Canada exists to promote trades and technologies for tomorrow’s workforce. Competitions begin at the regional level and winners can progress as far as the world stage. In 2022, Alex Forbes won gold at nationals and in 2017, Andrew Christensen received a medallion of excellence at the WorldSkills event.

Following the provincial event in April, Franzen is hopeful TRU will be represented on the national stage at Skills Canada National Competition 2023, being held May 25-26 in Winnipeg.

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