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Georgian students enter pre-apprenticeship program

Don Procter
Georgian students enter pre-apprenticeship program
BRIAN PIETERS — Underneath a low pressure turbine casing, millwright Brendan Chester cleans up weld repairs to meet exact tolerances. During operation, the turbine rotor spins at 1,800 revolutions per minute inside the slots of this cover. Steam enters at the centre and passes through a series of rotating and fixed blades to transform the steam pressure to mechanical energy. Chester was working for Bruce Power on a temporary basis. During outages Bruce Power brings in skilled trades from the hiring halls to do specific work

Twenty young people took the first step towards what could be decades-long employment when they started a pre-apprenticeship trades program recently at Georgian College’s Owen Sound, Ont. campus.

“We recognize that there will be a need (for trades) over the next 20 or so years (at Bruce Power’s refurbishment),” says Lise Mollon, business manager at the Owen Sound campus. “For a lot of people it is going to be their whole career.”

The 34-week program which started in late April includes an introduction to five key trades in need in the region — particularly at Bruce Power. It has a 12-week placement at Bruce Power, where the students will be working for suppliers/subcontractors under the tutelage of journeypersons.

The first pre-apprenticeship program at the Owen Sound campus, it covers welding, electrical, millwright, carpentry and boilermaker trades.

John Peevers, communications director for Bruce Power, says the pre-apprenticeship initiative is a positive step towards developing a skilled trades corps needed to help complete the company’s multi-billion dollar refurbishment.

“When we look at our skilled trades forecast from now into the 2020s, it is (for) boilermakers, electricians, millwrights, pipefitters, carpenters,” adds Peevers. “We’re growing in a time when a lot of other sectors aren’t.”


The pre-apprenticeship trades program at Georgian College’s Owen Sound, Ont. campus runs for 34 weeks including an introduction to five key trades in need in the region — particularly at Bruce Power.
SUPPLIED PHOTO — The pre-apprenticeship trades program at Georgian College’s Owen Sound, Ont. campus runs for 34 weeks including an introduction to five key trades in need in the region — particularly at Bruce Power.


He says the project (a major component replacement program starts next year) will peak later in the 20s at more than 2,000 tradespeople.

“Those people would be well set up for a full-time job at Bruce Power if they have an interest there,” he notes.

Mollon says students will spend six weeks in training for boilermaker — the biggest trade needed at Bruce Power — and three weeks on each of the other trades. By exposing students to different trades, it increases the chance they will find a good career fit.

Students will also get health and safety training, a course in blueprint reading and academic upgrading.

Mollon says unions affiliated with the trades have agreed to take a look at the graduating students for entry into their apprenticeship stream.

“Our hope is students will be able to get their first choice (trade),” Mollon says.

Georgian College targeted people that are underrepresented in the trades, including women, visible minorities, indigenous people and people with disabilities.

“It’s one of the things we particularly like about the program,” says Peevers, adding Bruce Power also has a focus on hiring ex-military personnel. “We have hired lots of former military into security ranks and we think it is a great opportunity for trades as well.”

The pre-apprenticeship program is free, funded by the provincial Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

Mollon sees it as a “win-win” scenario, providing trade opportunities for underrepresented groups while offering unions a chance to open new doors to untapped resources.

Owen Sound has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Ontario, says Mollon, pointing out that she was surprised at “the high calibre” of applicants for the program. About 330 people applied for the 20-seat class.

Many applicants had “decent jobs, but they saw this as an opportunity to do something they always wanted to do,” she says, noting that a screening committee was comprised of Bruce Power personnel, the unions and campus staff.

She says the pre-apprenticeship program is linked to the apprenticeship programs the college is operating or will be starting up in the next two years.

Based on the success of this year’s program, the campus hopes to apply to the ministry to fund another class next year, Mollon adds.

“We would absolutely love to see this (pre-apprenticeship program) to continue and grow. It fits in with one of our other major initiatives…to stimulate local economy and give people in the area opportunities,” says Peevers.

Recent Comments (1 comments)

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B.Stegner Image B.Stegner

Great news that industry and the trade Unions are taking lead for apprenticeship and existing trades workers, since the Province closed the Ontario College of Trades seven months ago they have not shown interest, leadership or governance for good paying jobs.


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