The Strength of Steel and Love: Raymond Paul Welds A Future
Growing up in a family of welders, Raymond Paul learned a lot about the strength of steel and love. He had to leave home to find it for himself, but it was worth it. “In most communities, you have to leave your community in order to further your career. It's a little tough for some people, but then it pays off in the end,” Raymond Paul reflects on the time he spent away to get trained in his field.
He stayed on campus in residence in Calgary and found ways to make it through the time away by keeping in touch with everyone at home. For him, home was in the North. Paul grew up in Tulita and Yellowknife, Northwest Territories and has been welding for 17 years. He has his Red Seal but it wasn’t his first career choice.His first job was in carpentry in Yellowknife and he went into that because his uncle who taught him was a carpenter. He thought he would enjoy it but it just didn’t stick so he tried something else. Next, he did his first year aircraft engineer training at Buffalo Airways in Yellowknife.
During the school portion, he did welding on some of the exhaust for the airplanes and enjoyed it. He also happens to come from a family of welders, including his father and three uncles. He did an apprenticeship up north and found work with one of the diamond mines. “It kind of took off from there, and I've enjoyed it, I'm enjoying it still,” he smiles.
Being away for the training wasn’t all bad, it was only eight weeks and he explains, “It gives you time to study harder, because you are alone up there. You make friends along the way, of course. It flies by really quick, because you're pretty much working and school and then you're studying.”
His wife wasn’t there when he was away training, but she’s been behind him all the way. “My wife was a big inspiration to me, I kind of veered off a little bit from it, but then she pushed me back into it. That's when I kind of took off with it again, during my apprenticeship. Ever since that, I've bounced from job to job, and it only got better and better and better. So it just keeps getting better really, as you get more experience in your trade,” he shares.
His advice for Indigenous youth leaving their home communities is, “get help with the funding from your bands. Most bands do, they help and they pay for your funding and transportation even, they give you monthly expenses while you're in school, which is a huge help for young students. They want to see you succeed, so they'll do anything they can to help you.” He attended his program with students who didn’t have support, who were there because they had been laid off and he could see the difference support can make.
When he reflects on his own struggles he recalls, “The only obstacle I faced really was being away from the family. With the work that I was doing, I was always out doing camp work, two weeks on, two weeks off, or 21 on, one week off. Along the career, that's something you’ve got to get used to and your family gets used to.”
While it’s hard to be away, Paul has a positive attitude about it, explaining, “It pays off in the time you're at home, you know, we make every moment count, every hour. That's part of the trade, really. You can get a job in town, of course, but a lot of people want to make quick money and that's where the money is, really, in camp work.”
If he could tell his younger self anything it would be, “Stay focused, stay humble. Don't lose track of what you want to do in the future. Just stay focused, there’s a lot of temptations and for sure, [they’re] not worth it. You're going to school, you're leaving your own town for something, and you want to accomplish it. These are things that will veer you off track and the main thing is to stay focused. It's a lifelong career for you and you’ve got a lot of people counting on you, a lot of people helping you along the way and you want to do right. Do what you have to do to get through it.”
Working a career with healthy earnings also means Paul has to stay healthy himself. “You’ve got to stay in shape in a welding career; I work with a lot of heavy stuff. You need your rest, you need to be healthy. Welding, they say, is an unhealthy job but if you do your job safely you will be alright,” he elaborates.
“Safety is number one. There's different types of welding, but in my field, I work with all the heavy mining equipment up north, so thousands of pounds you're dealing with, and you want to be knowledgeable on everything you're doing. Be safe. You're not working by yourself. You're working with other people, too, right?” he continues.
His safety conscious attitude is inspired by his coworkers but Paul is inspired by his father who helped him find his way. “My father was the one who guided me into the welding career. He was a welder. Ever since I was a kid, he would always be traveling, leaving town for work and coming home. We lived right next door to where my father worked in a welding shop and I grew up with him coming home, stinking like steel and welding, dirty. I just grew up with it and I loved it, really. He's my inspiration for where I am today,” he reminisced. Now, his own son knows what it’s like to be raised by a welder.
In closing, Raymond Paul shares a message of hope for the fireside chat audience, which is, “Stay focused, get the help you need. There's a lot of people behind you. Your family is number one and your community is right behind you.” He had to leave home to find his career, but the sacrifice has been worth it. Inspired by his dad and uncles, encouraged by his wife, he found his way to where he wants to be. Staying focused and staying safe, he’s working with the strength of steel and love as he does what he can to provide.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.