Aspiring to become a plumber, Farahat Katende hadn’t anticipated that the opportunity for a career in plumbing would arise by way of WoodGreen’s Plumbing Pre-Apprenticeship Level 1 Program.
Upon his arrival in Canada, the refugee claimant was directed to various social service organizations to help him integrate into the Canadian workforce and culture. Yet, he soon realized that his status as a refugee claimant rendered him ineligible for numerous programs.
It was only when Farahat stumbled upon WoodGreen’s Plumbing Pre-Apprenticeship Program flyer online that he could give his plumbing career dreams a shot.
“I had done a lot of research and wanted to get into the plumbing skilled trade,” he says. “I went to various social service agencies to see if they offered any plumbing programs. However, the response I would get is that they don’t have it or can’t take me in because of my status. I kept trying till WoodGreen took me in.”
Helping to address shortages of skilled trades workers in Ontario
WoodGreen’s Plumbing Pre-Apprenticeship Level 1 program aims to address the labour shortage in high-demand trades, as well as increase exposure to the skilled trades. The program is free and is open to anyone who is 18 years of age or older and legally entitled to work in Ontario.
“Ontario, like many other regions, is grappling with a significant shortage of skilled labour in the trades,” says Kizzy Rodney, associate vice president of external and community relations at George Brown College. “This scarcity of workers has become a pressing issue for our province, impacting key sectors of the economy like construction.”
WoodGreen has a well-established and highly valued relationship with George Brown College in offering skills-training programs. In addition to the plumbing program, WoodGreen and George Brown also offer Industrial Millwright, Building Code Skills Development and CNC / Precision Machining programs.
“WoodGreen and George Brown College’s collaboration, shared learnings and joint contributions provide rich benefits to clients and reinforce our mutual commitment to empowering individuals and communities to realize their potential,” says Niki Stamatelos, supervisor of trades at WoodGreen.
Participant gives the program high praise
Entering the program with the objective of becoming a certified plumber was Mark Albarillo, previously a cable technician skilled in cable and fibre optics installations for high-rise buildings.
“While working for my last employer, I met a couple of guys who were plumbers. We got to talking and I asked them questions about plumbing and what they do on a day-to-day basis,” Mark says.
“So, before I took the program, I set my mind that I said to myself, ‘Ok, I’m actually going to become a plumber.’ And when I found this program, I was like, ‘this is really, really good.”
Participants learn key skills in plumbing and sheet metal
WoodGreen’s Plumbing Pre-Apprenticeship program includes eight weeks of level 1 training in plumbing, followed by an additional week of sheet metal training. During this period, participants take in-person classes at the George Brown College – Casa Loma Campus.
The benefit of these nine weeks is that participants learn how to navigate working in the skilled trades, while also gaining some hands-on learning experience and exposure to plumbing and sheet metal.
“The first thing we learn is basic knowledge of plumbing, and then the second part is the hands-on experience,” Mark says. “You know, all the professors were extremely helpful. We get to work with pipes with some tools and cut them, and actually build something from scratch.”
These sessions offer a deeper understanding of these trades and allow participants to directly interact with instructors who offer continuous guidance throughout the training process.
It’s also a good opportunity to develop soft skills by communicating with fellow classmates and instructors who offer continuous guidance throughout the training process.
“We are taught by professors with professional experience in teaching in the water systems and plumbing fields. I am also lucky to have very supportive classmates who have become my friends over time,” Farahat says.
Opening doors to employment opportunities in the plumbing sector
Participating in training programs can be costly. The amount needed for books, tuition fees, equipment, clothing and transportation can quickly add up. WoodGreen and George Brown College are helping remove those barriers to success by providing participants with access to these supports.
“I was given a new school laptop and, all safety Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and access to George Brown College student benefits like the gym, career guidance support, resume support and classes or different certifications,” Farahat says.
One of the program’s most appealing aspects is that upon finishing training at George Brown College, WoodGreen offers invaluable assistance in securing an eight-week paid job placement. This opportunity, provided by a supportive employer, serves as a significant stepping stone towards a career in the trades.
The program prepares participants for roles as plumber helpers, a role that represents a significant entry point into the industry. After this phase, participants have the option to either seek employment with an employer who will guide them in becoming a Plumber Apprentice. They can also choose to approach a union for assistance in finding an employer, immediately after successfully concluding the eight-week placement.
That’s what Farahat and Mark are doing right now.
Farahat is currently doing interviews for his plumbing apprenticeship position.
Meanwhile, Mark has commenced his two-month placement at Woodbridge with DeLuca Plumbing, where he will also transition into becoming a registered apprentice upon the completion of his placement.