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Faces Behind the Trades

Jody Laurin

Powerline Technician

“Go after your dream,” advises Jody Laurin. “It’s a great feeling when you accomplish what you set out to do. It’s the best feeling in the world.”

Laurin is a Métis powerline technician from Tiny Township in the Georgian Bay region. Having participated in a joint Métis Nation-Georgian College program designed to boost the number of Aboriginal people working in the energy sector, he wants to get the word out to his peers that skilled trades careers are a worthwhile investment.

He says that Ontario’s indigenous communities are an ideal source of talent to potentially fill the projected shortage of skilled tradespeople in the province.

“I work with great people, I get to be outside and every day is different. On top of that, I’m paid really well to do my job. I love going to work every day and not many people get to say that.”

Simone Hewitt

Steamfitter - Apprentice

Simone Hewitt’s roots in the skilled trades run deep.

“With my grandpa as a handyman and my stepdad as an electrician you might say the trades is a family affair,” says the 21-year-old Toronto resident.

Hewitt, who trained as a steamfitter at U.A. Local 46 in Scarborough, enjoys the feeling of having accomplished something at the end of the day.

“The trades give me the opportunity to work with my hands and really see the benefits first hand.”

As a young mother, Simone was inspired by her son to better herself by choosing a rewarding career path.

She loves driving by a place and thinking “cool, I helped build that.”

Darryl Grenier

Residential Air Conditioning Systems Mechanic

Darryl Grenier was looking for a stable career in which he could flex his entrepreneurial muscles while using both his hands and his head.

“I went to school nights and weekends, obtained a gas fitter’s license, an apprenticeship and earned a ticket in refrigeration and air-conditioning systems,” explains Grenier.

And it paid off. The ambitious 39-year-old Métis tradesperson from Penetanguishene now owns DLZ Heating and Cooling, a business that employs several technicians (all members of the Ontario College of Trades).

“The Métis Nation of Ontario funded my training, and because of that I was able to start building my business,” says Grenier.  “There’s significant demand for skilled trade work right now. With the right training and hard work and a little bit of luck, you can launch a successful business.”

Dave Shepherd

Motorcycle Technician

The first time Dave Shepherd saw a motorcycle, it was love at first sight.

In fact, as a youngster he couldn’t even walk past a motorcycle without getting excited.

So just as soon as he was old enough, Shepherd decided to get a job sweeping floors at a motorcycle shop just to be close to the objects of his affection.

It was a wise decision.

Working at the motorcycle shop was the first step towards his dream job: motorcycle technician.

Now he spends his time helping people get the most out of their bikes. Plus, Shepherd travels every year to Japan to test the latest bikes before they even hit the market.

It’s a tough gig, but somebody has to do it.

Corporal Ted Collins (Ret’d) C.D.

Military veteran & Boilermaker

After nearly 15 years in uniform, Ted Collins needed a change.

He travelled across Canada throughout his career in the service, including stints in Winnipeg after the 1997 Red River floods and to Quebec during 1998’s ice storm. He also completed tours in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Afghanistan.

After working as a vehicle technician in the army, Collins decided a different skilled trades career might be a good fit for the next phase of his life.

“When I got out of the military, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I got out and got into a trade with the boilermakers – my life has changed incredibly,” says Ted Collins.

With the help of the Helmets to Hardhats program, he joined the International Brotherhood of Boilermaker’s in Sarnia and started his apprenticeship.

After three years of training in safety, rigging, fitting and welding at refineries across Ontario, he received his boilermaker certification and now works for Ontario Power Generation (OPG).

Tracy Qiu

Horticultural Technician - Apprentice

Tracy Qiu is a young woman of diverse talents.

Not only is Qiu apprenticing in the prestigious Niagara Parks School of Horticulture, but she holds a degree in Sheridan College’s world-renowned Animation program.

When Qiu, who was born in China and raised in Edmonton, finished her degree at Sheridan, she was burned out and tired of sitting, hunched over a desk.

She started volunteering at a community garden in Toronto run by Green Thumbs Growing Kids. The purpose of the garden was to introduce children to basic farming methods and teach them where their food came from.

Qiu enjoyed the hands-on work, and felt like it was something she could do on a daily basis, so she enrolled in the Microskills/Humber College Women’s Pre-Apprenticeship Horticultural Technician Program.

After graduating from the Pre-Apprenticeship program, Qiu went on to the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture. The Niagara Parks is an intensive, three-year program in horticulture to which only 10-15 students are accepted each year. Students spend most of their time maintaining the hundred acres of the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, which is almost entirely cared for by the students.

Qiu says nothing makes her happier than a well-tended landscape.

“It’s extremely satisfying to look back at a newly installed plant bed, and then to come back later and see it flushed out in a few months. My favourite thing is to see people enjoy the work we’ve done in the garden.”

Oscar Turchi

Chef

As a young boy in Italy, Oscar Turchi spent many hours in the family kitchen learning about food, and helping his mother prepare pasta and other meals.

All these years later, Canadian diners are grateful that Mamma Turchi taught her son so well.

Today, Turchi is the owner of Savoia Hors D’Oeuvres, a widely-acclaimed enterprise that specializes in the handmade hors d’oeuvres that have launched the Niagara-region chef into the upper echelon of the Canadian culinary community.

Turchi immigrated to Canada in 1992 after years of practising his craft in a number of five-star restaurants and hotels in Italy.

He then began his Canadian culinary career as executive chef at Ristorante Giardino at the Gatehouse Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake before moving to Toronto where he served up his neo-Italian cuisine at Borgo Antico, the ORO Restaurant, and Toula.

After a decade in Canada, in 2002 he opened Savoia in St. Catharines, with wholesale and retail outlets in Niagara and Toronto.

“Starting Savoia Hors d’Oeuvres was a life-long dream come true. Now, I have a successful business with many staff members who are all as passionate about food as I am!”

Michelle Smaglinski

Electrician - Apprentice

Michelle Smaglinski is one of the many young women who are beginning to embrace a career in the skilled trades.

While growing up, the Hamilton native had intended to go to university and study engineering. A high school co-op class, though, introduced her to a career in the electrician trade, and since then she’s never looked back.

Smaglinski is now an electrician apprentice at Mohawk College, and well on her way to a rewarding career in an industry she loves.

Smaglinski is happy to be in a field that allows her to work with her hands, solve complex problems and finish her education without a mountain of student debt.

She also relishes the sense of achievement that comes with working in a skilled trade.

“I like the feeling of having accomplished something at the end of each day.”

Johnny Maracle

Plumber - Apprentice

Johnny Maracle has always been an ambitious young man.

As a teenager in Belleville, he excelled on the field, on the ice and in the classroom. After heading off to university, though, Maracle realized that what he really wanted was a career in which he could use his hands and his head.

Maracle gave plumbing a shot, and quickly embraced the challenges and opportunities his new career path offered.

The 20-year-old from the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory is now a plumbing apprentice with designs of one day owning his own business, or perhaps even teaching his trade in a college program.

Maracle believes that the number and diversity of trades– there are 156 trades in Ontario, from plumber to electrician to hairstylist– and the high demand for people with those skills should propel more young people and Aboriginal people to consider a career in the trades.

Kathy Clout

Electrician

Kathy Clout once planned on selling houses. Now she wires them.

Clout, a certified electrician and owner of Clout Industries, an electrical contracting, training and consulting company, studied marketing at Fanshawe College, and began her professional career at a London real estate firm.

After a few years in the real estate industry, however, she wasn’t entirely satisfied with her job.

She began exploring alternate career options, and enrolled in a skilled trades sampler program.

Clout, a problem solver who likes working with her hands, was a natural in the skilled trades; she apprenticed as a machinist and packaging mechanic before settling on electrician.

Years of working in various shops and factories gave Clout the experience and confidence she needed to open her own business.

Clout is a strong advocate for women in the trades, and she uses her position as a business owner to mentor girls and young women who are considering a career in the skilled trades.

“I love to teach girls how to use tools. And I always tell them, don’t be afraid to be the only girl. One will lead to another and then another. That’s how you start a movement.”

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