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Student project nabs welding award

Student truck restoration project nabs national award, boosting Rimbey Welding program

A student’s restoration project that began with an old truck in a field, has led to a big boost for the metals and welding shop at Rimbey Jr/Sr High School.

The Canadian Welding Bureau (CWB) has awarded $10,000 to the school’s metals and welding shop for a second place national finish in the annual Forged by Youth Award from the CWB Welding Foundation. The award was given to the school following student Justin Zukiwski’s vehicle restoration project last school year, which has its origins 14 year ago.  

CTS metals teacher Gary Hiebert pulled his 1977 F-100 Long Box out of the bush and got it running back in 2008, to have a truck to drive to work when he began teaching at the Rimbey Jr/Sr High School. Last year he sold that truck to the then Grade 12 student Justin Zukiwski for $500 dollars and Justin immediately began a complete restoration of the truck. The engine had been rebuilt the year prior, but Hiebert said after handing it over to Justin, the restoration really began.

“He took the entire vehicle apart, the cab, the chassis, the box and he rebuilt everything,” said Hiebert. “The box itself is not original, the cab and chassis are. He upgraded it from a three-speed transmission to a four-speed transmission. There were all kinds of extra hours that went into it that didn’t make the (award) application, because it wasn’t what the welding association was looking for.”

Hiebert explained that Justin, who has since graduated, has now finished the paint job on the truck and is using it for his everyday vehicle, while he works in Rimbey and pursues his mechanics ticket. He said younger students are inspired when they see a student like Justin, and those who helped him, work on such a massive project.

“I think first and foremost when you have someone like Justin working on the truck like he did in the shop all last year, it is front and centre, and kids see that. Running the grade splits that we do in a smaller school, you have Grade 10 students watching a Grade 12 student do something actually pretty phenomenal and it spurs them on,” said Hiebert.

When it comes to the award that the project garnered for the school, Hiebert said it is very welcome and will help with supplies and equipment. 

“A metal shop is a consumable shop; you use up things and put wear and tear on equipment. You need to replace those after a while, because the old ones wear out,” he said, adding that the award money will help with the purchase of MIG spools, auto darkening welding helmets, drills, angle grinders and steel. 

Hiebert said the metals shop is always a sought after course at the school and having students like Justin, and the benefit of the CWB award, helps boost that program.

“In my 14 years as a shop teacher, I don’t think we have ever had an undersubscribed metals class. There is really strong interest and the sky’s the limit for what we are doing.”

Wolf Creek Public Schools’ Secretary-Treasurer Roger Hall said much of the success of the program should be credited to Hiebert’s dedication.

“Gary is very passionate about the program and about creating opportunities for students, and encouraging them to pursue their dreams in the trades. He mentors and is closely connected to student success,” said Hall. “Gary, Rimbey Jr/Sr High School and the entire school division should be very proud of the hard work of Gary and his students that enabled this accomplishment.”

The CWB Welding Foundation Forged in Youth Award celebrates the creativity and effort involved in secondary school welding projects.

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