By Darren Lum
When Grade 12 Haliburton Highlands Secondary School student Grace Hudson started the day, she didn’t think she would enjoy plumbing, but that changed after she participated in the Tools in the Trades Boot Camp held at the school on Tuesday, Oct. 12.
Hudson came into the day with aspirations of studying interior design at post-secondary school, as part of a plan to stay in the area and make money with an effort to buy and flip houses, but was left intrigued by the prospect of adding plumbing to her future after she learned how to install a sink faucet and its related piping and fittings.
Hudson was one of 27 participating senior students and said the hands-on plumbing experience really changed her perception of the trade.
“I kind of had an idea it was more dirty and not that fun, but, honestly, I really enjoyed what we did today,” she said. “Now I kind of understand it is something I want to do and I like the hands-on. With my future goals, it’s definitely something I could consider to do and maybe even do it on the side or work with a team.”
She encourages other students to participate in boot camps like she did where students learned to install a sump pump and a sink faucet.
“A lot of people have a fixed idea about the trades and stuff, but it definitely is fun and not what you expect when you get out and do it,” she said.
Part of Ontario Support Youth program, the day-long boot camp enabled an opportunity for Grade 11 and 12 students at the high school to receive hands-on lessons in plumbing and provided advice about what employers are looking for in employees, including a brief presentation about ever-increasing local demands in the trade industry by Aggie Tose, executive officer with the Haliburton County Home Builders Association.
Tose said she believes in facilitating the next generation of trade workers.
“I want the door open to the school and the association because we’ve got 58 companies that need employees and we need them from somewhere. We’ve just got to open the door,” she said.
She adds there are seven people on the G.J. Burtch Construction Enterprises Ltd. team that are between the ages of 55 to 62.
“Those are getting old. They don’t like roofs They don’t like bending down,” she said. “And everybody is in the same boat.”
Right now, the trades, particularly masonry and plumbing have the greatest need in this area, Tose said. She thought it was helpful for the boot camp to be set up in full view of the public in front of County Road 21.
“Especially people driving by. They need to know that we have opportunities for people. And the trades is such a great opportunity. It really is. There are so many opportunities for them,” she said.
Each participating student left with new skills and was also given a starter tool kit valued at $250. The kit included a pipe cutter, wrenches, a multi-head screwdriver, a level, adjustable wrenches, tape measure and a bag to hold everything.
Hudson was impressed by the collection of tools, particularly the pipe cutting tool and the multi-head screwdriver. She said she could install a vanity at her residence on Kushog Lake now.
The senior student welcomed the practical lesson, but also the theoretical lesson related to what employers want.
“You don’t need the experience and it’s more about your attitude and your qualities you have as a worker like being on time and your problem solving skills and organization. And your attitude is huge. They taught you how to get a job in the trades and what they’re looking for and what makes you look good. They definitely did a lot. They also [helped] you do mock interviews, which was really useful,” she said.
HHSS transportation and construction teacher Chris Simpson, who has been at the school for 15 years, appreciated the boot camp for how it offered more than two dozen students tangible skills, but can also prove to be beneficial to employers and the community.
“You couldn’t do this for that many individual kids, but having this boot camp through [Ontario Support Youth] is just phenomenal. They have four different boot camps that they can run. Our board is going to have three,” he said, referring to plumbing in Haliburton, automotive at the Bracebridge Muskoka Lakes Secondary School in Bracebridge, and millwright work in I.E.Weldon Secondary School in Lindsay.
“Actually be able to practice the soft skills, essential skills, as part of a workshop and then go and do some hard hands-on [skill building]. Today they plumbed up vanities. Installed taps. Put together some fittings, some piping, and got a wicked tool kit out of the deal, a nice lunch and hopefully [retain] some skills,” he said.
Simpson said this opportunity was possible from a coordination between the board and the boot camp organizers.
His hope is for it to continue to be offered next year.
“Absolutely, because it’s not something that I don’t have time to do, nor do I have the funding to do. I would love to do more plumbing in the courses, but at the price of everything, it’s just not feasible. Whereas we got an organization that is funded by the government, as well as private organizations. Why not? Why not? I think it’s really worthwhile for them to do it,” he said.
He would like to have this be offered every year, so more students are exposed to the trades that need new people.
“Average age of most plumbers and a lot of trades people is rolling towards 60. We’re going to be [facing] a huge, huge shortage in the near future,” he said.
He’s heard from a friend looking for a plumber that they will have to wait for two months before their needs are met.
Simpson valued how the outdoor lesson’s are effective for his students.
“They were all engaged. It was beautiful to watch,” he said.
The event also provided HHSS hospitality students an opportunity to put their skills to work, as they helped to make and serve lunch to the boot camp participants.
Simpson thought having the boot camp set up in front of the school was ideally situated.
“We do have demands [that need to be met in the trades] and, hopefully, if someone is driving by and they have a son or daughter here maybe it will give them more of an enticement to maybe come and participate. The biggest thing is exposure. There is only so much we can do in the normal every day courses, so when we get the opportunity to do something like this [we need to] absolutely do it,” he said.