Not Just a Dirty Trade

By Karli Steen, WorkStory Ambassador

Shawn Sellon's path started at Saunders Secondary School in London, ON where he spent two years learning the art of welding. The Grade 11 and 12 classroom introduction lit the flame of passion. He continued on to take a Welder/Fitter program at Conestoga College. After completing this program, Shawn attained all his welding certifications and started working at Tigercat Industries in Cambridge. However, he wasn't done with Conestoga yet and went on to tackle the Welding Engineering Technician program. This led him into robotic welding and to learn the science behind it.

 All these experiences changed Shawn's perspective of what he thought was a smoke filled and messy job: "it showed me that there was more than just what was thought of as a dirty, Red Seal trade. It was now something more..and interesting!"

 Shawn shared the experiences that have stayed with him throughout his career: "Everything I ever did with my time at Conestoga. All the professors involved in the welding programs have industry experience. They know what is required from graduates as they move into the workforce and I think this is a critical factor in why these poly-technical programs have a good history. The skills I have found most useful would be working in groups, good communication, and report/memo writing. It is critical in manufacturing environments to be able to work effectively in a group. Writing reports and detailed emails are important for Technical/Technologist's positions. All of these skills were attained from my educational experience at Conestoga, and have helped me tremendously "

 A day on the job for Shawn is full of high temperatures and lots of responsibility: "I'm in charge of the robotic welding operations, and all welding applications that are done at our two facilities in Stoney Creek. Jayne Industries, where I work now, is a refractory hardware and fabrication company for the oil, gas, and steel industry. Refractory is a ceramic compound that is lined on the inside of furnaces that operate at a high temperature above 1500F. If the refractory was not in place, the steel structure of the vessel would deform with the high heat. To anchor this refractory material on the furnace wall, stainless and Inconel fabricated materials are used. These procedures are completed at Jayne. To weld exotic alloys like these, it has to be done properly. Most of these fabrications are done robotically in a controlled environment, using the right processes and consumables. I am in charge of developing the procedure to weld the materials, program the fabrication, and supervise production afterwards. I train and teach employees to use the new technology involved in our facility, and provide any technical information to customers.  Customers such as Exxon Mobile, which is the largest energy company in the world. Our anchoring systems are used on shut-downs when they are replacing refractory material on a refinery."

 Shawn is extremely satisfied with what he's accomplished so far. He is always learning about new technology and information. He has accepted a leadership role as a floor supervisor, which has improved  his skill set. He has learn what he and his team are capable of and how to deal with conflict among employees.

When asked what the most rewarding part of pursuing welding was, Shawn said that seeing how much his educational background is acknowledged in the industry is a bonus.

He also doesn't mind the fact that he is 21 and doing ok for himself. The starting salary for a Welding Technologist is about $55,000 yearly. Along with the nice pay, Shawn says he appreciates that the learning possibilities are endless.

  As for advice, Shawn says that the more education you have the better. The more aspects of any trade that you know, the more opportunities and skills you will gain.