Georgian College Muskoka Campus is offering a chance to kick-start a career in the trades through a free pre-apprenticeship program starting next month.
The pre-apprenticeship program covering carpentry; construction small engines; and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) kicks off on July 12 and runs until October 15, followed by a 12-week paid work placement. During the free 14-week program, students will learn about topics like trades math, blueprint reading and career development through online courses while also getting a chance to get hands-on experience in the shop. There’s been confusion surrounding the in-person portion of the program due to the pandemic, said Muskoka Campus Associate Dean Mac Greaves, but students will still receive hands-on instruction in carpentry, small engines and HVAC, just with smaller class sizes.
“They will still have the same number of hands-on hours that they would have even if there was no pandemic,” Greaves said. “In many ways it’s a great opportunity because the [student-to-teacher] ratio is much lower than in normal times because basically there will be a maximum of 10 students to one teacher when they’re in the shop doing the hands-on activities.”
Greaves said the program is “like a taste tester for the trades.” Because it’s a tuition-free program funded by the Government of Ontario, it gives people a chance to gain skills and test out multiple career paths for free. Participants must simply be 16 or older, a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant, and not already registered as an apprentice.
“It’s great for someone who is looking to get into the trades, maybe doesn’t know what trade to get into, and they want to learn a little bit more about the construction industry,” Greaves said. “We know that the construction industry makes up about 23 or 24 per cent of full-time employment in the Muskoka region. It is actually the largest employer of full-time people, and we know that there’s a huge need for entry-level workers in the construction industry.”
Georgian can help open doors for students, Greaves said, and get them into a career they may not have considered before, so he encourages men and women alike to check out the program and consider a career in the skilled trades. Many participants in the pre-apprenticeship program have signed on as apprentices after completing their work placements with local contractors while others have chosen to continue their studies at Georgian.
The pathways are many for students in the trades, Greaves said, and in addition to a fantastic shop and experienced faculty, the program offers additional training like first aid, working at heights and lockout tagout training.
“These are things that a normal entry level worker would have to pick up on their own, so this is being provided for them in the pre-apprenticeship program,” Greaves said. “We’re doing everything we can to have them career ready in 14 weeks [for] an entry-level career in the construction trades.”
John Pearce, a member of the faculty for the pre-apprenticeship program as well as the general carpentry apprenticeship course, has been teaching in various carpentry programs for 17 years. Throughout that time, he said he’s been fortunate to work with participants of all ages from diverse backgrounds.
“During the four-week long carpentry portion of the program, participants work in teams to build small wood-frame structures,” Pearce said. “I have witnessed first-hand as participants gain skills and confidence during our brief time together in the carpentry shop each session. Typically strangers to one another at the outset of the program, the participants quickly divide themselves into teams and collaborate to build full scale buildings.”
Current pre-apprenticeship student Scarlett McTavish said the program provides an excellent avenue to explore multiple trades.
“As someone who came into the program with zero experience, I feel supported and encouraged by the instructors,” McTavish said. “I was also thrilled to see the large number of young women participating in the program which fosters a safe and inclusive environment for us to pursue our career explorations.”
Those interested in the pre-apprenticeship program should apply by June 30. For more information on the Georgian College Muskoka Campus, visit their website, or watch this video to see what a day in the life is like at the Muskoka Campus.
This post is sponsored by the Georgian College Muskoka Campus.