When Chris Reader, owner of Veteran Welding, transitioned from the military into civilian life, he felt he never had a problem finding employment. He had problems finding work that could keep him mentally and physically engaged.
“It was like oh okay this is cool, and then you get in there, and it’s just mindless brainless work. You just follow the blueprints, weld from A to B, flip over, weld B to A and so on and so forth,” said Reader. “There was no actual room for growth because it was very much a, ‘We only do this type of welding.’”
After several months of working the position, Reader found himself becoming complacent and angry. The light at the end of the tunnel when he found a job with Kenn Borek Air. He was hired on to do repair work, but he was never doing the same task for longer than a month at a time.
“It would be like, ‘Okay, you need to fabricate this jig and you need to do everything from selecting the material, to design it, to some of the machining, to explaining why the machinist needs to sit there and design parts A, B, and C a certain way to fit it here,’ and it was a very eye-opening experience,” Reader added.
Reader would end up leaving the position to further his career in welding.
Throughout his welding career, he often found himself doing side jobs for others. Reader knew that one day he would like to start his own business.
“Officially, I started it April 17 of 2017. But I had been doing side jobs here and there. I’ve had the groundwork laid out for Veteran Welding since 2010 when I was still stationed in Gagetown,” he added.
Based out of Aldersyde, AB, Reader strives to create a Veteran rich environment similar to that of the military.
“Comradery wise, but with none of the hand holding, so it’s very much, ‘this is your job, do your job,’ and we’ll create an environment that is healthy for everybody and makes people want to come to work every day,” said Reader. “I want to create craftsmen. Not workers, craftsmen.”
Reader was able to attend school by way of the Canadian Veteran’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services (CVVRS) program. They paid for him to go to school, while he was in school, saying it was a huge weight lifted off his shoulders.
However, two days before Reader was to write his Red Seal test, which would allow him to work anywhere in Canada, he was a nervous ball of energy.
“My wife was like, ‘What is wrong with you? You’ve been so calm and focused for months, and now it’s just day to day stuff like you can’t make up your mind,’” Reader recalls. “I said I’m nervous, and I don’t want to go back to work, one thing and the other. She said, ‘Well, you better go back to work, you’ve been going to school for six months.’ I said I want to weld, but I just, I don’t want to work for somebody else.”
Reader’s wife looked at him and said, ‘Well don’t, don’t work for somebody else, you have the knowledge, we have the financial backing and everything else to step out on our own. Do it! Go! Be your own boss!’ He recalls it was the a-ha moment he was looking for.
“The answer was right in front of my face!” he added. “So, I did just that, like literally that same day, I walked down to the registries office, I walked in, and I was like okay, I want the company name Veteran Welding and I incorporated it, and yeah, we just started going from there.”
The entire company started in a small 20-foot trailer as he started gaining business, Reader quickly realized the need to upgrade his space and moved into a 60 by 40-foot shop in November 2017.
“The problem with that is now that we’re looking at getting some bigger machinery and automating some stuff and getting a couple guys in here, well we need to move into another facility now. That’s our next step right now. I’m actually looking for another shop,” he added.
In addition to wanting to be his own boss, Reader also wants to give back to the Veteran community that so graciously embraced him when he needed it most. He’s even teamed up with CVVRS, the very same program that helped him through his own schooling.
“We now have the capability to help out other Veterans, to pay it forward. Whether it was just going to different events or just sponsoring them,” Reader added. “One of the events we did this year was called a Grime and Shine, it’s the Jeep version of a Show and Shine, and it was helping Can Praxis, which is an organization that helps Veterans with PTSD through horse therapy.”
Reader would like to continue his support for the Veteran community with his new project, a network of business owners, Veteran or civilian, who are passionate about giving back to the Veteran community.
“This way we can hire more Vets, it’ll be a lot easier to create the culture because it’s like-minded individuals and then we can sit there and employ them,” he added. “We want to be able to hire as many people as possible and then not only do that but also bring pride back to ‘Made in Canada’ or ‘Veteran Made’ and just the whole entrepreneurial mentality. You want to start your own business? Fine! Do it! The only thing I ask, how can we help?”