It has been quite the summer experience for 20-year-old Melissa Bond of Fort Frances, who has been working for the Abitibi-Consolidated paper mill here as a co-op civil engineer since the first week in May.
The dedicated student to the field of engineering had opted to spend her summer back here to complete a co-op work term
required for a civil engineering degree from the University of Waterloo.
“I always knew I was a math and science person but I didn’t know how I would apply them," said Bond. "Then I decided on being an engineer.”
It wasn’t until her senior year at Fort High that Bond finally decided on pursuing this career but she was up to the challenge of the five-year program at university. And after having just completed her first year there and starting the summer job at the mill, Bond is sure she made the right decision.
"It’s overwhelming sometimes when they say, ‘Go do this.’ But that’s the best thing, too, because nobody is spoon-feeding me.
“I’ve just done lots of challenging things,” she remarked.
Bond admitted she was nervous when she began to work at Abitibi-Consolidated but eventually overcame her fear as the job progressed and her confidence grew.
“I was scared but excited because this was my first real job. I could take what I had learned at school and use it," she said. "I was looking forward to this type of atmosphere.”
Working days from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and weekends if work hasn’t been completed, Bond faces deadlines which the company depends on to be complete and done well.
“Drawings have to be made to make changes so the pipe fitters have something to go by,” she noted.
“There is a lot of responsibility involved. If there is a wrong measurement for a pipe fitting, it can slow down the whole construction,” she added.
Double-checking and even triple-checking numbers is part of being a civil engineer to make sure measurements are precise. But there are many technical aspects to the job which help relieve the process of drawing and measuring—if you know what you’re doing.
“You have to be able to view things three-dimensionally from a two-dimensional drawing," she explained. "This is key and something I learned in my drafting class at university.”
“You can be taught but it takes hard work,” she added.
After having at least five hours of homework a night at university, Bond knows all about hard work. But she was introduced to a computer program called AutoCAD, something she had no prior skills for.
With a brief introduction to the AutoCAD program, which helps Bond create her drawings, she quickly picked up on its use and finds it to be quite helpful. In fact, Bond noted this computer skill is essential for any job in civil engineering and is pleased she was introduced to the program before she tackles it in university.
But the job as a civil engineer doesn’t begin and end with a computer. And that’s precisely what Bond loves about the occupation.
“I love the computer stuff but I get to help the engineers with surveying and crawl in small, dirty places,” she laughed.
One unique incident Bond recalled when she first began at Abitibi-Consolidated was dressing up in a heat protective suit and doing a routine check on a paper machine dryer, which had a temperature of 180 degrees F.
“This place you can do anything. There’s so many possibilities," she remarked. "The engineers here are just brilliant. I have learned so much from them.”
With five more co-op placements needed to be completed during her five-year course at Waterloo, there are no limits of where she may end up next. In fact, Bond said a job placement could send her to Newfoundland, or even China.
“I love it. [Engineering] is always going to be a challenge," she enthused. "I’ll finish one project and get another one with more challenges.”
As for now, a second year at the University of Waterloo awaits Bond come fall, where she looks forward to what she’ll learn in a field she loves.