As a commercial diver and welder by trade, Kendal Keating is immersed in a sea of opportunity every day. Hailing from New Brunswick, Canada, Kendal has worked a large variety of jobs across the country in just about every province. What began as an interesting possibility when his high school teacher mentioned “underwater welding” has manifested into the foundation for his lifelong career across welding and diving. Listen in as Jeremy takes a deep dive with Kendal to learn about his early career, welding in Canada, commercial diving, safety, and much more.
Growing up in a small Canadian town, Kendal Keating always had the ambition to travel but was unsure of what career path to take. Kendal had been surrounded by trades since childhood, living on a farm with a tight knit blue-collar family. He did well in high school, but like many other students, was not too interested in the material. However, one day in an elective course was when Kendal first learned of his future career.
“Actually, I was in a shop class that was just a burner course because I already had all my credits to graduate and stuff. Basically, my shop teacher one day brought up the thing of underwater welding, and I was like “Wait, what? What was that? And it's something that really stuck in my head and it just seemed like something that was so cool but also very unattainable.”
As graduation approached, Kendal was looking into the sciences in pursuit of his original career plan to become a pharmacist. However, he also enrolled in welding courses at the local community college for a backup plan. As it turns out, Kendal was accepted into the sciences program being a high-performing student, but went with welding instead.
“At the community college there, my parents were very, very supportive. Like I said, I grew up with a lot of blue collar background. However, my older brother went to university. He has a financial background now, as well as my little brother's a chemical engineer. Obviously, I got the brains of the family being a welder.”
After graduating the welding program, Kendal studied in Alberta for an apprenticeship program before obtaining his Red Seal in 2017. In Canada, a Red Seal is essentially the equivalent to becoming a Master Welder in the U.S., which would allow him to start his own business and take jobs across Canada and beyond. Kendal explains:
“So basically, a journeyman allows you to work in one province as like the top of your trade. But if you get your red seal, you can work at any province as the top of your trade. So it allows you to travel… I can head over [to] Australia and go to Europe, all that fun stuff with a red seal and still be recognized as the top of my trade.”
As a welder, Kendal would bounce job to job as opportunities present themselves. Over his career, he has been able to work in just about every province across Canada. His work is split across welding and metal fabrication work, which Kendal enjoys due to the building element.
“I want to be building stuff, I want to see something going down the road, like a full trailer with a twin deck stream deck on it for rock crushing, and be like, I built that or something along those lines, right, I get a lot more satisfaction of building something than just welding something that somebody else put together for me.”
As Kendal got older, he wanted to tie in the underwater welding element to his career. Looking deeper into the job, he learned that in order to do that, he needed to become a commercial diver which is a completely separate set of certifications. This would allow him to become a jack-of-all-trades in diving, but specialize as a commercial diver who welds. Through both of his experiences as a welder and commercial diver, Kendal has found a job which combines the two.
“So the job I'm currently on, we're actually doing a refacing of an old dam - the dam was built in 1950s. And all that concrete on the upstream side is kind of getting washed away. So we're going down, we're chipping everything off. And then I'm putting like steel plates on it, almost like an armor, welding all those plates on and then refilling, where we ship with new concrete. So now instead of water hitting concrete and hitting the steel, they're bolted on.”
Looking ahead, Kendal is planning to go in the direction of inspection for his welding career, which will provide longevity in terms of physical ability as he grows older. This will require more certifications that will allow him to certify X-ray and work in nuclear plants. However, in the time being, he is incredibly happy as an underwater welder, as he is able to do and see things every day that many people might never get to in their lifetime. Kendal recounts:
“I'm 40 feet deep in the middle of nowhere in Ontario welding, basically a big armor plate onto a bullnose on a dam. And I'm there and like a bass swims by my face as I'm welding. So I can't see for a second and I'm like what's happening? And then I lift my lid, and there's just a bass looking at me. And I'm like, how many other people that have ever walked this earth or ever will walk the earth are going to have that experience, right? Like, you kind of sit there and first I can think is like, oh, this is... this is surreal.”
Becoming disciplined in both worlds of welding and commercial diving, Kendal now finds himself immersed in a sea of opportunity. With the sky as the limit, he continues learning new things every day about how he can apply his skills across a wide range of professions.