On a snowy winter day, Oscar made his way to the IWC office to talk to us about his story and how he has been able to find his passion in Hamilton. He is a welder, topographer and soon to be father from Colombia. He is passionate about his family, starting over and finding strength in determination and being present. Read his interview here:
IWC: How did you start your journey to become a welder?
About a month ago, I was at the Mohawk College’s Introduction to Welding class at the Mobile Classroom. I was in the December cohort. So, I was there for three weeks, and then selected by IWC to go for additional training at Advanced Welding Techniques. David, my Employment Specialist, called me to tell me he had my certificate. We reviewed my resume and we sent it to National Steel Car. I got an interview, and I’m starting to train there this week, I’m very happy, because for me this is an opportunity!
IWC: When did you arrive to Canada?
I arrived, the 19 of March in 2018, and I came from Cali, Colombia.
IWC: How has your first week at National Steel Car been?
I’m still in the training program, so I’m learning new things. Everyone at work speaks English and my level is basic but that pushes me to speak it more. Like we say in Colombia, let the tongue loose! At work, I’ve been very attentive and trying to understand the industrial environment a lot more. I’ve been learning about work culture, and different ways of working with others. I work with people from India, Middle East, China, and everywhere around the world and this is a new experience for me.
IWC: And how has that experience been for you?
For me, personally this experience has been really enriching. This cultural experience has opened my mind and taught me that life is about thinking about others, sometimes I get caught up in myself but here, I’ve realized that there are other people to think about. And the best thing is that you might not have a university degree, or be a doctor, but we are all the same. We are all equal. No matter where you come from, no matter what traditions you may have or what your culture is, we have to respect each other.
Everything that has happened to me and my family since we arrived here, has been an opportunity. The past is behind us, and we are living here in the present, day after day. As Latinos, we are really tied to our families and cultures back home, but here, I’ve learned about discovering new things, and leaving some things behind.
IWC: How did you hear about IWC?
From a friend who was in my English class at St. Charles, told me that there are courses and classes I can take. And that’s what I like the most about IWC, the training that you can get. In this life, you have to do what you love the most.
IWC: And what do you love to do the most? What is your passion?
Working with metals is one of passions, I love it. This has always caught my attention, asides from topography, it’s my second love. I’ve loved it since I was small, I would watch my dad do things on the machines, fix things around the house. And I loved handling tools, I have some tools but I love going to Canadian Tire and Home Depot to look at the tools, and make a mental note of them, so I buy them when I can.
IWC: That’s amazing! So this course is perfect for you!
Yes, I heard about it through Ms. Morena, my LINC Coordinator. She told me about the welding class, she motivated me and she was like a guide. She asked me if I was committed to this and when I said yes, she helped me. I joke with her that she and David are like my godparents, they have opened the doors for me, and even though they don’t work in the same building, they work as a team. David has so much patience, he’s always been looking out for me, asking how the interviews went, he helped me prepare for them.
IWC: How has been your process of learning English?
When I arrived, the first thing that I got into my head was that speaking English was not a barrier. I arrived with a lot of fear of speaking it. That I might not understand. And sometimes the fears won, I’ve struggled but there was a moment where I said to myself ‘I am not the first or the last one to be learning, I have to do it’ and speaking English is the most important thing to find work. The way that I faced it was with decision and determination. One has to be determined to do it, the first time you might not be understood, or the third time even. But then by the second or third week you can express yourself, you can understand. If you never try, you will never understand and you’ll be stuck in the same place. You just have to face the fear.
IWC: That’s such a good and inspiring way of looking at it! Did you have experience in welding before?
Yes, in Colombia I worked in two related companies. One was a landfill company where I handled and repaired heavy machinery. The other one, I worked as a metal worker, where we made metallic pieces. I studied topography but I realized that I also love welding. I want to go further in this, because I know I can go further and learn more advanced things.
IWC: What is one message what you would like to give to people who are newcomers?
I would say to lose the fear. The fear of being an immigrant, of speaking the language, of trying new things, be eager for more!
Be eager to pursue your dreams. You have to push yourself to move forward and not get stuck. Don’t wait for things to come to you, go after them. If you don’t know the language, go out and learn it! With lots of effort and dedication, you can achieve more, just make the decision to lose the fear. When you do, you might surprise yourself and do things you never thought you would.
This interview was originally done in Spanish and translated to English by IWC Communications.