Housing authority promotes trades

by Arthur Milnes
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 06/98) - Fort Simpson's William Michaud and Taylor Speed are working at the Fort Simpson Housing Authority where the pair are busy learning trades -- and getting paid for it -- that will serve both them and society in the years ahead.

"It's good money and it's honest work," says Speed, a high school student, who spends afternoons at the housing authority as part of the SNAP -- School's North Apprenticeship Program. "I'm working to get my plumbing ticket and my Grade 12 (diploma)."

As part of the program, Speed's grades must be maintained at a high level or its back to regular school. Listening to him, it's obvious the worst is not about to happen.

As for Michaud, he's been apprenticing at the housing authority all year and is employed there.

"I want to get all my tickets -- journeyman plumber, oiler burner mechanic, gas fitter -- this is my first year," he says. "The opportunity was there and the chance was there. It's a great opportunity and new experience... It's great to learn something new and it's fun to do something other than paperwork in school."

Once the pair get their papers, they'll be able to -- excuse the pun -- write their own ticket anywhere in the North and across all Canada. Qualified trades people are needed in all sectors of the Canadian economy and can walk into careers with the kind of pay and benefits that many can only dream of in these days of globalization.

"The demand for skilled tradespeople will only increase as we all work together to build a stronger economy in the North," Charles Dent, the NWT's education, culture and employment minister said in the legislature this week.

Back at the housing authority, maintenance manager Bob Hanna says he is an enthusiastic promoter of having young people involved in trades.

"The reason I did well in these fields is that over the years, many people took a lot of time to show me these things," the veteran welder, plumber and stationary engineer says. "I felt it my duty to do the same with the generation of today."

And, Hanna says that even oldtimers like him can still learn on the job with apprentice workers around.

"I think it's great because you get new ideas, enthusiasm and fresh input," he says. "These young people have the opportunities to pick our brains and then go to school and learn all the latest technologies."