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  • Darryl Grenier (Residential Air Conditioning Systems Mechanic)

    Darryl Grenier was looking for a stable career in which he could flex his entrepreneurial muscles while using both his hands and his head.

    “I went to school nights and weekends, obtained a gas fitter’s license, an apprenticeship and earned a ticket in refrigeration and air-conditioning systems,” explains Grenier.

    And it paid off. The ambitious 39-year-old Métis tradesperson from Penetanguishene now owns DLZ Heating and Cooling, a business that employs several technicians (all members of the Ontario College of Trades).

    “The Métis Nation of Ontario funded my training, and because of that I was able to start building my business,” says Grenier. “There’s significant demand for skilled trade work right now. With the right training and hard work and a little bit of luck, you can launch a successful business.”

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  • Jody Laurin (Powerline Technician)

    “Go after your dream,” advises Jody Laurin. “It’s a great feeling when you accomplish what you set out to do. It’s the best feeling in the world.”

    Laurin is a Métis powerline technician from Tiny Township in the Georgian Bay region. Having participated in a joint Métis Nation-Georgian College program designed to boost the number of Aboriginal people working in the energy sector, he wants to get the word out to his peers that skilled trades careers are a worthwhile investment.

    He says that Ontario’s indigenous communities are an ideal source of talent to potentially fill the projected shortage of skilled tradespeople in the province.

    “I work with great people, I get to be outside and every day is different. On top of that, I’m paid really well to do my job. I love going to work every day and not many people get to say that.”

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  • Hilary Noack (Auto Body and Collision Damage Repairer)

    Hilary Noack has always loved cars.

    So much so that she recently opened Ink&Iron, an auto body shops staffed and run entirely by women. She spends her days in the shop listening to music and doing what she loves – bring cars back to life and watching over the apprentices learning how to do the same.

    “Being a woman in this trade usually means that you’re the odd one out,” says Noack. “When I went through the apprenticeship program at Centennial College I was the only girl in my class.”

    But Noack is used to being the only woman in the business. Before opening Ink&Iron, Noack was the first woman to teach auto body full-time at Centennial College, where she worked for a number of years.

    “This is my passion. It’s what I love to do. And I think it’s better if you can write your own ticket and do things for yourself. You have the opportunity to create something that is a reflection of yourself.”

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  • Johnny Maracle (Plumber – Apprentice)

    Johnny Maracle has always been an ambitious young man.

    As a teenager in Belleville, he excelled on the field, on the ice and in the classroom. After heading off to university, though, Maracle realized that what he really wanted was a career in which he could use his hands and his head.

    Maracle gave plumbing a shot, and quickly embraced the challenges and opportunities his new career path offered.

    The 20-year-old from the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory is now a plumbing apprentice with designs of one day owning his own business, or perhaps even teaching his trade in a college program.

    Maracle believes that the number and diversity of trades– there are 156 trades in Ontario, from plumber to electrician to hairstylist– and the high demand for people with those skills should propel more young people and Aboriginal people to consider a career in the trades.

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  • Tracy Qiu (Horticultural Technician – Apprentice)

    Tracy Qiu is a young woman of diverse talents.

    Not only is Qiu apprenticing in the prestigious Niagara Parks School of Horticulture, but she holds a degree in Sheridan College’s world-renowned Animation program.

    When Qiu, who was born in China and raised in Edmonton, finished her degree at Sheridan, she was burned out and tired of sitting, hunched over a desk.

    She started volunteering at a community garden in Toronto run by Green Thumbs Growing Kids. The purpose of the garden was to introduce children to basic farming methods and teach them where their food came from.

    Qiu enjoyed the hands-on work, and felt like it was something she could do on a daily basis, so she enrolled in the Microskills/Humber College Women’s Pre-Apprenticeship Horticultural Technician Program.

    After graduating from the Pre-Apprenticeship program, Qiu went on to the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture. The Niagara Parks is an intensive, three-year program in horticulture to which only 10-15 students are accepted each year. Students spend most of their time maintaining the hundred acres of the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, which is almost entirely cared for by the students.

    Qiu says nothing makes her happier than a well-tended landscape.

    “It’s extremely satisfying to look back at a newly installed plant bed, and then to come back later and see it flushed out in a few months. My favourite thing is to see people enjoy the work we’ve done in the garden.”

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  • Simone Hewitt (Steamfitter)

    Simone Hewitt’s roots in the skilled trades run deep.

    “With my grandpa as a handyman and my stepdad as an electrician you might say the trades is a family affair,” says the 21-year-old Toronto resident.

    Hewitt, who trained as a steamfitter at U.A. Local 46 in Scarborough, enjoys the feeling of having accomplished something at the end of the day.

    “The trades give me the opportunity to work with my hands and really see the benefits first hand.”

    As a young mother, Simone was inspired by her son to better herself by choosing a rewarding career path.

    She loves driving by a place and thinking “cool, I helped build that.”

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  • Kathy Clout (Electrician)

    Kathy Clout once planned on selling houses. Now she wires them.

    Clout, a certified electrician and owner of Clout Industries, an electrical contracting, training and consulting company, studied marketing at Fanshawe College, and began her professional career at a London real estate firm.

    After a few years in the real estate industry, however, she wasn’t entirely satisfied with her job.

    She began exploring alternate career options, and enrolled in a skilled trades sampler program.

    Clout, a problem solver who likes working with her hands, was a natural in the skilled trades; she apprenticed as a machinist and packaging mechanic before settling on electrician.

    Years of working in various shops and factories gave Clout the experience and confidence she needed to open her own business.

    Clout is a strong advocate for women in the trades, and she uses her position as a business owner to mentor girls and young women who are considering a career in the skilled trades.

    “I love to teach girls how to use tools. And I always tell them, don’t be afraid to be the only girl. One will lead to another and then another. That’s how you start a movement.”

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  • Michelle Smaglinski (Electrician – Apprentice)

    Michelle Smaglinski is one of the many young women who are beginning to embrace a career in the skilled trades.

    While growing up, the Hamilton native had intended to go to university and study engineering. A high school co-op class, though, introduced her to a career in the electrician trade, and since then she’s never looked back.

    Smaglinski is now an electrician apprentice at Mohawk College, and well on her way to a rewarding career in an industry she loves.

    Smaglinski is happy to be in a field that allows her to work with her hands, solve complex problems and finish her education without a mountain of student debt.

    She also relishes the sense of achievement that comes with working in a skilled trade.

    “I like the feeling of having accomplished something at the end of each day.”