Opening a Door for Canadian Newcomers
On Monday, a group of educators and city officials came together to launch the YMCA-YWCA’s first ever Pre-Apprenticeship Home Renovation Program. They were surrounded by wooden work stations half covered in dry wall with colourful signs above them sporting the students’ names, or the names of the business they hope to start.
For 33 more weeks, 20 Canadian newcomers will be learning renovation skills and techniques that will give them an important boost in the workforce.
“We know that due to attrition, the trades will be losing one out of five of their workers,” Bob Gallagher, the Y’s President and CEO, told the gathered crowd. “We see new immigrants as the future of trades.”
Throughout the speeches leading up to the ribbon cutting ceremony, each speaker emphasized Canada’s need for new skilled workers. For many of the Pre-Apprentices, this need could guarantee them a job.
“There will always be work,” said John Gordon, one of the program instructors and the founder of Your Reno Guys. “Somebody will always need something fixed, or something improved…there are so many opportunities.”
Gordon said that helping run the program and passing on his skills was fulfilling a dream for him. He couldn’t emphasize enough how the satisfaction of reno work goes well beyond job security.
“The idea that you get to go into people’s homes and improve a part of their home they’ve been saving up for and looking forward to, you’re actually delivering their dreams,” he says.
The last person to step up to speak was Catherine McKenney, the City Councillor for Somerset Ward. She reminded the crowd and participants of how much Ottawa’s immigrant communities have helped the city grow.
“I know for Somerset Ward downtown, without the Vietnamese community we would not have the richness we do today,” she said.
After the last speech ended and Lorenzo, one of the program coordinators, cut the red ribbon in front of a student’s workstation, all of the participants got together for a big group picture. These students represented a variety of age groups and countries all over the world. They came from Syria, Iran, Myanmar (Burma), Vietnam and the Sudan. No more than three of them were from any single country, but they all came to Canada and, judging by the group photo, they’re happy to be here.