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Drywall building trades and Toronto Police help at-risk youth

Don Procter

Toronto Police’s 23 Division is teaming up with the drywall building trades to organize a tour for youth at risk this December at the apprenticeship training facilities for the trade in Woodbridge, Ontario.

The tour of the Interior Finishing Systems Training Centre (IFSTC) will show kids from Rexdale neighbourhoods (in their late teens to early 20s) that drywall trades involve a lot more than just slapping up sheets of gyprock to a wall or ceiling.

It takes on average four years for apprentices in drywall trades to get their journeyman papers. That is a ticket to a good-paying job — $80,000 annually isn’t unusual — doing honest hard work, says Hugh Laird, executive director of the Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario (ISCA), which makes up the drywall and associated trades contractor group.

David Semen, the IFSTC’s industry apprentice liaison and outreach specialist, says graduates have a host of possible career paths. Positions such as foreman, construction supervisor, project coordinator, estimator and even work with the union as a business agent are examples.

“They can pursue a lot of incredible careers without spending thousands of dollars for re-schooling.”

Laird says even if only three or four of the youths on the tour show enough interest in the trade to take the next step towards apprenticeship, the tour was well worth the effort.

“It’s the right thing to do to help the community out,” Laird adds, noting that the IFSTC has embarked on such other initiatives with at-risk youth as squeegee kids living on Toronto streets, Hammer Heads and a program developed with the First Nations, Miziwibeek targeting Aboriginal youth.

“It’s a good feeling when you have a kid living on the streets who four years later is a journeyman in drywall,” says Laird.

Traditionally, the retention rate of the youth-at-risk in apprenticeship programs is low and training is costly, money coming out of the pockets of member contractors, says Laird. “Still, if we can save a couple of these kids we are doing the right thing.”

Toronto Police’s Sgt. Kevin Van Schubert says each youth interested in taking the drywall facility tour will first attend an information session organized by 23 Division.

“We can’t guarantee them jobs in the trade but this is an opportunity for them to see how it works,” says Van Schubert.

“If it changes one, two, three or four people’s lives it is great for them, great for us and great for IFSTC.”

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