A new video series by Skills Ontario features skilled professionals sharing their journeys, success stories and advice in an effort to promote trade and technology careers to youth.
The 20-part series, Success Stories from Skilled Professionals, profiles individuals from the construction, industrial, motive power, service and technology skilled sectors and includes a cabinetmaker, architectural technologist, a welder and a plumber, to name a few.
Wade Ellis, a site supervisor for Gen-Pro General Contracting, based in Burlington, Ont. and a Skills Ontario alumnus, shared his story as part of the video series. Ellis started working with his father, who was a certified electrician, during the summer when he was 12 years old. He said his dad was his mentor.
“I got to see all kinds of trades and what goes on on construction sites,” he said, adding he also liked woodworking. “I was always doing woodworking in the basement and doing my own little projects through Grade 6, 7 and 8.”
When he got into high school he focused on skills programs. His shop teacher asked him to participate in what is now the Skills Ontario competition. Unfortunately, his school didn’t make it to the provincial competition but he did learn a lot.
“It was very good, very educational,” he said, adding he learned about teamwork, working together to solve problems and working under tight deadlines. “They helped you out, they gave you the tools to decide where to go and what to do and how to do things.”
From there he looked into doing an apprenticeship.
“I was going to do electrical…Now it’s very specific but at that time it was very general so you had to learn everything about motors, electronics,” he explained. “Working with my dad, I never got into that stuff so I wasn’t very interested in that so instead I went into carpentry.”
He attended George Brown College and took a 40-week course. He then started his apprenticeship with a small general contractor out of Mississauga, Ont. Today he works as a site supervisor but also gets to be hands-on.
“In between jobs, if we don’t have full projects all the time, we switch out and we go hands-on,” he said. “It’s a lot of carpentry skills and construction skills used, not just supervisory, until we get a project and the PMs (project managers) decide to give you a project to be the supervisor for. Then you become the site supervisor and then your percentage changes of how much hands-on work you actually do.”
The advice he gives to the younger generation is to get a trade first.
“Every time I see the young kids that are coming by I always tell them to get a trade,” he said, adding he also believes in doing a co-op program and exploring all the options. “Look at all the trades and subtrades that are out there and see if there is one that interests you and start going towards that field.”
Now 40 years later, his son has decided to pursue a trade as an industrial millwright welder. He went into the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program. He and his classmates also competed in the Skills Ontario competition in carpentry. At the competition, he took the opportunity to explore all the different trades available to him.
“He decided to go a different route and go into millwright and ironworker,” Ellis said. “He joined the Ironworkers’ Union out of Toronto and he works for a theatrical company now that does a lot of rigging, machining of custom parts and accessories.”
He is 21 years old, in the third year of his apprenticeship and he has a new truck and is saving money for his own house.
“You can make a really good living out of this and once you get your certificate,” said Ellis. “After you’ve done your apprenticeship, you can start your own business if you want which can be even more lucrative. They sky is the limit on what you want to do.”
Skills Ontario CEO Ian Howcroft said it’s important for students to have mentors and role models like the ones who share their stories in the videos.
“We’re grateful to have advocates sharing their stories and we’re excited for youth to hear them,” he said in a statement. “Skilled trades and technologies play a vital role in our success as a province, and it’s important to continue promoting these pathways to youth.”
To see the videos click here.
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