By Glenda McCarthy
Convocation is a special time for any student, it signifies the culmination of months of hard work and dedication. However, the June convocation ceremony at Corner Brook campus held an even greater meaning for 19-year-old welding graduate, Colby Letto.
For Colby, it wasn’t just a day of celebrating the completion of his program. It was also the day he was able to join the same profession as his father and grandfather. All three Letto’s graduated from the Welder program offered at CNA’s Corner Brook campus.
Colby’s fascination with welding goes back to his childhood. On any given day in his hometown of L’Anse aux Clair you could find Colby in one of three welding shops owned by members of his family. So when it came time to make a decision about what to do after graduating from high school, Colby knew exactly where he was headed – to CNA’s Corner Brook campus.
“As a young boy I was always interested in welding. Two of my uncles had welding garages and Pop owned a welding garage too in L’Anse aux Clair. I grew up watching my Dad and Pop weld all
the time and knew it would be able to provide me with a good living,” Colby says of his decision to enroll at CNA. “I loved the welding program. It was interesting and the instructors were great.”
Colby’s grandfather, Manuel, was a member of the first class of graduating welders at the campus in 1964 at the then named Corner Brook District Vocational School.
“I was tired of fishing and decided that I would get a trade,” recalls Manuel. “After considering my options, I chose welding and haven’t looked back since.”
In 1990, Manuel’s son Gary followed in his footsteps. He received a welding certificate from the newly named Fisher Institute of Applied Arts and Technology. Once he graduated, Gary was able to complete his apprenticeship under the tutelage of his father who was operating his own welding business in L’Anse aux Clair. Manuel has since retired from welding and Gary is still actively working in the field.
Colby’s parents and grandparents made the trek from Labrador to attend his graduation ceremony, where Manuel and Gary compared notes about all the changes that had taken place since the last time they visited.
“It was really great to have them both attend my graduation and talk about the differences in the campus since they were here as students,” Colby says.
In fact, it was an impromptu reunion of sorts between Manuel and Colby’s welding instructor, Murray Barney. Murray, who is from L’Anse aux Loup, just 15 kilometres from the Letto’s hometown, worked with Manuel during his first job as a welder in 2005. And while Murray only came on as a CNA welding instructor in 2014, he says it was great to see a familiar face in his first class of students.
“It certainly makes you feel better about teaching for the first time,” Murray says. “I had two people from my area in that class. I knew the both of them would be good at welding and put the work in. Plus I know Colby is the type of kid that if his father was at something, he was around it as well. He probably picked up some skills from his father and grandfather before he came here.”
With school now behind him, Colby has embarked on a promising career as a welder, choosing to stay in Corner Brook instead of returning to Labrador. He was hired at Johnson’s Construction just days after his graduation ceremony took place and is looking forward to learning everything he can about his trade.
“My favourite part about my job is trying different jobs, tackling different tasks, and learning new tricks of the trade,” Colby says. “The guys in the shop help all of the time with anything I need. It really is perfect that they take that time out to help me.”