Piecing together a legacy at DC

Photo by Kayano Waite

Rob Nokes at work in the welding department (centre), and in his office.

Rob Nokes, Mechanical Technologist, is a Durham Region native. The husband and father of two has alternated between Oshawa and Whitby through that time seeing many changes with how technology is used in Durham. I was able to talk to him about his upbringing thoughts on the state of welding at DC.

Tell me about yourself. Where were you born?

Well, I was born in Oshawa, I married in 1986. We bought a house in Oshawa Oshawa, we lived there for about nine years. And then I moved back to Whitby.

I started welding in high school. Took all trades in high school really. I won the Grade 12 Welding Award in 1981. I came to Durham College, took the Welder Fitter program. I didn’t get a job right out of the gate, but I eventually got a maintenance welding job. I worked in the trucking, maintenance side up until 2002 when I started working at the college.

It would be easy to say this (Tech) was something you knew could see yourself doing?

Yeah, I enjoy the welding aspect of making stuff, designing stuff.

Have you seen a growth or decline in the amount of people wanting to learn about the trades? Specifically welding.

We definitely have had an increase students wanting to take welding. We started the One-Year techniques programs about three, four years ago. This year is the start of a Two-Year program.

What’s different now, over year’s past in high school’s people took the trades, you would take it in Grade 12 and then you would come to college to learn the advance stuff. We’re now getting students that haven’t stepped into a shop during high school and are now realizing that trades can led to a really good career path. but they’re coming here with no experience

What would you change with the school board in terms of making it more accessible for students to learn more about the trades?

People have realized finally that computers are not going to control and do everything, we need people who can work with their hands. I know some schools are bringing trades back. The sooner you start into it at the high school level, the better for when you come to college

THE OYAP (Ontario Youth Apprenticeship program) which you can get into at high school is really good. That’s a great starting place.

What are some misconceptions about working in the trades?

I think people think it’s easy. It’s hot. It’s dirty sometimes. You’re gonna get scrapes. For some reason, some guidance counsellors are telling people “you’re gonna make a fortune”. Not out of the gate. If you’re gonna make a lot of money, you’re gonna work hard.

What’s the toughest challenge in your field?

A lot of the times, in the real world, something we don’t stress is the time constraints. You’re pushed and pushed to get a job done faster and faster, because time is money. Sometimes at the college we don’t emphasize that enough. That’s the reality.

What current projects are you working on?

Right now, we finished just getting 20 new welding machines in the shop too there, that was a big project we had running.

That required making some kind of cart to hold them hold them all, figure out the wiring get them hooked up, get them tested.

We got a third shop coming so definitely there’ll be some more projects we got coming.

What’s the most important thing in your field people should be aware of?

(For the welding field) Certainly then you see someone who does good work, appreciate someone who’s good at their job. don’t always go by someone telling you how good they are.

…You can tell by just watching them work and looking at their finished product.

What’s your favourite thing about Durham College?

Because I like to fabricate and design stuff, I get to design stuff for this entire building. I feel good when I walk around the school and I can look around the shop and see things that I’ve designed and built and installed in the shop.

People talk about legacies. I walk around and I see my legacies already.

This interview was edited for style, length and clarity.




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Kayano is a second-year Broadcast Journalism student at DC. His focus lies in the arts, focusing primarily in film and television. He also hosts a show "Black Camera" on Riot Radio. Kayano hopes to be a television writer.