• By: Ali Matthews

Pre-Apprenticeship Home Renovation Program Creates New Definition for Success

John Gordon is no stranger to us here at Ottawa Life. Whether he is giving tips to our readers on the Dos and Don’ts of renovating your home or growing his award-winning home renovation business, Your Reno Guy, it is clear that Gordon knows his stuff.

Now, in partnership with the YMCA-YWCA of the National Capital Region and the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, Gordon is sharing his 20+ years of experience and know-how with new Canadians as part of the Pre-Apprenticeship Home Renovation Training Program.

ymca2This no-cost program allows successful applicants to receive an intense 23-week hands-on technical training from Gordon in skills like carpentry, drywall, and tile setting. This training is then followed by an up-to 12 week paid work placement.

“The inaugural session of the Pre-apprenticeship Home Renovation program has realized the Y’s long-term goal to help immigrants gain hands-on experience to become skilled tradespeople in Canada,” said Bob Gallagher, President and CEO, YMCA-YWCA of the National Capital Region. “We are thrilled to report that 75% of the program participants have already received job offers in the home renovation sector.”

What makes this statistic even more impressive is that the program only just wrapped up this month. Last Tuesday marked the first graduation ceremony where friends, family and special guests celebrated with all 20 participants, who included one woman and 19 men from 16 different countries.

ymca3Skill development in this sector has proved to be the perfect fit for many immigrants and allows plenty of room for growth – which may explain the remarkable 130 applications the YMCA received for just 20 spots in this first run.

“The home renovation sector doesn’t feel a lot of the ups and downs and it isn’t seasonal,” explained Kendra Duval, Director, Immigrant Employment Programs, YMCA-YWCA of the National Capital Region. “It is an entry point that has a lot of possibilities for the future, like an apprenticeship or entrepreneurship – a lot of participants are interested in having their own companies one day.”

For many participants, the professional gains are only half of the story. “This program has given the participants skills, [but also] it has given them friends, a sense of community, a sense of direction, and access to sustainable employment,” said Duval.

This particular definition for success is exactly what the program developers, including John Gordon, had in mind. Ottawa Life reached out to Gordon to learn more about his experience running the Pre-apprenticeship Home Renovation Program.

Ottawa Life: Speaking with Kendra Duval, she said you were the real driving force behind this program. How did this partnership come about and what was your inspiration?

John Gordon: My inspiration came out of necessity, I own a renovation company and we are very busy. We are at the point that we are unable to keep up with demand. There doesn’t seem to be any good source of qualified trade people. Most of the curriculum in colleges is outdated.

I had an existing relationship with the YMCA where I used to speak to new immigrants arriving to the country to give them tips for resumes and job interviews, and eventually that let to the idea of to improve the success rates of getting these immigrants hired. I saw the need to do a hands-on trade school as opposed to classroom style. The YMCA agreed to be a partner in this and the school began.

There was a huge influx on applications to participate. Did you expect this kind of response? When selecting participants, what were you looking for?

It was quite a surprise the amount of applicants we received in such short of a time, but it confirmed the need for a program of this type.

In participants, we were looking for people who were serious and ready to commit for 6 months, people that were passionate about starting a new career.

What did you learn from leading this program?

I learned a lot from the first program. I learned so much about different cultures around the world and what people go through to get to Canada. I learned how much I can teach people in a 6 month span, I learned the other things that were important to teach people besides the hands on – communication, punctuality and professionalism. I also learned how much employers need this to meet their demands.

Will you be hiring any graduates?

I have already hired two of the graduates, and most of the other graduates have already been hired. I am looking forward to the next session that will begin in the spring; we also hope to double the students.