Aspiring construction workers learn more about the industry

Published On March 3, 2020 | By Sydnee Walcott | News
Attendees of Youth Trade Seminar along with the speakers of the Feb.29 event pose together in a group photo. (Sydnee Walcott)
Sydnee Walcott

More than 30 young people attended a trade seminar on Feb. 29 at the Yonge Street Mission Centre, organized by Keep6ix, designed to help at-risk youth avoid a life of poverty by getting into the construction trades.

Guest speaker, Bowen LaFave, who works for the Sheet Metal Workers’ and Roofers Local 30 as an organizer, told the seminar attendees that he was the first person in his family to graduate from high school, and encouraged them to get a good education too.

“An apprenticeship is learning from your journey. It’s going to school, but it’s about about learning from your journey first,” said LaFave.

LaFave got in to sheet metal working when he was 20 years old after being encouraged to do so by his stepfather, who told him about the benefits of the job.

Originally he said he didn’t care about wanting to get into the field, but looking back, he feels as if he has made the right choice. “Now I’m 51 and I can see my pension waiting there. It’s good,” said LaFave.

Bowen LaFave talks to the attendees about the work sheet metal workers do. (Sydnee Walcott)

As an organizer LaFave’s job is to help companies that aren’t unionized.

The second guest speaker, Paul Triple, who has been working in the carpentry field for 21 years, explained to the attendees the work that is done includes team work in interior finishes, cabinetry, building foundations for buildings, and working on transit systems, which surprised the attendees.

“When you get through all the training, all of the schooling, it’s very nice to have something that tells you that you completed it,” said Triple, a carpenter who is the apprenticeship coordinator for the College of Carpenters and the Carpenters Local Union 27.

Triple is proud of the work that he has done in the carpentry field as he’s been able to help many apprentices, being one himself, and learn under a lot of good people.

He told the group that being in the carpentry field can not only give them great job opportunities within the GTA, but also all over the world.

“I never thought that I’d be an electrician when I was growing up,” said Derrick Smith, the event’s final guest speaker, who’s a licensed electrician.

Derrick Smith, a licensed electrician shares the positive outcome that an apprenticeship has brought for him. (Sydnee Walcott)

Smith told the group about his upbringing in a single parent household, started paying bills when he was 15 years old and dropped out school at the age of 17 to care for his mother who was sick.

After Smith got his GED, he went to college for electrical engineering. Halfway through the program, Smith dropped out due to financial issues.

He immediately applied for jobs afterwards when he found out about an electrical apprenticeship through a friend.

By the time he was in his third term of his apprenticeship, he was able to afford the house that he is currently living in.

Being in an apprenticeship program is something that Smith was proud of as he was able to get a career where he could sustain a family and have everything paid off.

Smith is also grateful for the Local 353 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers , who he said saw potential in him.

Richard Miller, the founder of Keep6ix, would like for people to realize that there are a lot of opportunities in the trade sector for young people as it could help provide them with having a good life and being able to build something.

Richard Miller, the founder of Keep6ix (left), and Richard Stephenson, Executive Director, (right) briefly talking about the work Keep6ix does with at-risk youth. (Sydnee Walcott)

Miller wanted to bring these opportunities into the community to make people aware of them.

Towards the end of the event, Richard Stephenson, the Executive Director for Keep6ix, talked about how there were some people who brushed off the event and he said they were missing out on an opportunity.

“I’m 32 and I’ve lived enough of this life. I have friends who missed out on these opportunities and I see where they end up,” said Stephenson, who didn’t want to see the same thing happen to the younger generations.

“You don’t fix a social issue without addressing the real cause which at times is economics,” said Stephenson.

Keep6ix is non-profit organization that has a mission of helping at-risk youth do better in life.

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