By Robin MacLennan
Editor, Ontario Construction News
Cameron Dupuis is living proof that a career in the skilled trades is both financially and personally rewarding.
Now 25, he launched his career as a 17-year-old Grade 12 student when he started training to become a carpenter through CCAT’s Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP). By the time he was 21, Cam successful obtained his red seal with more than 9,000 hours on the job and about a year later, he purchased his first house.
“I had known for a while that I wanted to be a carpenter,” Dupuis said. “In the last week of the course I was put out onto a job site and it’s been an absolutely awesome experience for me. I would recommend it to anyone.”
He learned all aspects of the trade working for a large contractor at various jobsites including the Billy Bishop Airport tunnel and the CN Tower.
“I was at the top of the CN Tower, above the second observation deck, for a couple of nights and it was incredible, with all the lights and everything,” he said. “I feel like I got really lucky with the huge variety of work I have done.”
With training being a vital component of that potential success, the College of Carpenters and Allied Trades (CCAT) runs two training centres to deliver training programs for pre-apprentices, apprentices and journey persons. The state-of-the-art centres provide a combined 113,000 square feet of both shop and classroom space including 14 electronic classrooms, two computer labs, wood working machine shops, a welding shop and a dedicated floor covering workshop.
“Apprenticeship programs are a vital part of ensuring members receive the highest-level training and education related to the skilled trades,” said Cristina Selva, executive director at the College of Carpenters and Allied Trades.
CCAT offers two apprenticeship programs for General Carpentry and Floor Covering Installer that provide apprentices with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed both on and off the tools.
The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) gives high school students a head start on their careers in the trades and the CCAT partners with several school boards to provide opportunities for students interested in becoming carpenters or floor covering installers:
- Toronto District School Board
- Toronto Catholic District School Board
- York Region District School Board
- York Catholic District School Board
- Peel District School Board
- Dufferin Peel District School Board
- Durham District School Board
- Durham Catholic District School Board
Alexandra Kelloway is an instructor at CCAT after being an OYAP student in 2005, completed the basic carpentry course and received high school credits to graduate. Like Dupuis, Kelloway went on to complete her apprenticeship in Carpentry and obtain her Red Seal Certificate.
“Having completed the basic carpentry course at the College of Carpenters was beneficial before I went out to work,” she said. “It helped verify that carpentry is the career that I wanted to pursue. The program gave me some knowledge, experience and hand skills I needed to work on the job site, especially being someone so new to construction.”
Kelloway says she chose carpentry as a career because she knew she wanted to work with her hands.
“In high school I was in auto mechanics for two years, grade 10 and 11. In grade 12, they offered a wood working class for the first time in years so I signed up for the class. I loved it immediately and thought that I would like to try the OYAP program and learn carpentry. It was the best decision I made.”
“When I finished the OYAP program she worked at Tower Scaffold for over 12 years and started a part time job at the Training Center in 2010, teaching the Basic Scaffold course.
This year there are approximately 70 grade 12 OYAP students from eight local area school boards completing their basic level Carpentry Apprenticeship training at CCAT.
Basic is one of three levels of mandatory apprenticeship in-school training for the carpentry trade and the program gives young people the opportunity to get a head start on their apprenticeships while still completing grade 12. It provides a uniquely seamless transition from high school to employment in construction as first term carpenters.
Students who successfully complete the program are sent to work for union companies, become Union members, and continue on to complete their apprenticeships within about four years.
“That means an OYAP student can become a fully qualified journey carpenter by age 21 which is a tremendous achievement both professionally and financially,” said Selva. “While many of their colleagues are still in University or College, racking up enormous student debts, these young men and women will be earning six figures, have no debt, and will be well on their way to great careers.”
Careers that also open the doors to related construction career paths such as project managers or superintendents for example.
Covid has definitely changed things. This year the OYAP information nights and interviews were conducted virtually and the first OYAP intake was temporarily suspended due to lockdown measures.
Class sizes were reduced to just eight to 10 students who must remain within their own separate classrooms and instructional spaces. Also, PPE – masks, eye shields, gloves – must be worn at all times.
Kelloway and Dupuis are shining stars of the program, both lived their dreams of successful carpentry careers and they are now sharing their experience and skills with new apprentices. Both are now full-time CCAT carpentry apprenticeship instructors who are currently teaching and mentoring the next cohort of OYAP students.
“I would recommend the trades to anyone who wants a rewarding career with amazing pay,” Dupuis said, adding that three of his friends followed him into carpentry after finishing university and being shut out of the job market.
“It’s a stable career with lots of opportunity. I’m living my dream,” Dupuis concluded.
For more information about CCAT’s OYAP or other programs please visit www.theccat.ca or call (905) 652-5507.