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August 16, 2006

Youth Training

TV’s Holmes backs youth training

TORONTO

TV’s popular contractor, Mike Holmes, is building a new foundation to promote long-term solutions to Canada’s shortage of skilled construction workers.

The Holmes Foundation’s goal is to promote and support the training of youths in skilled trades with the view to create a labour force that will “get the job done right the first time.”

Holmes, host of HGTV’s Holmes on Homes, says he has wanted to start the foundation for over two years, to help attract young people into the trades.

BRIAN WARCHOL

Mike Holmes filming on site at a home renovation project for HGTV’s Holmes on Homes.

“Through bursaries and scholarships and going to colleges to talk to kids about the trades, I am hoping to build awareness about how economically important it will be in the next 20 years to find skilled tradespeople,” Holmes said.

“This is a beautiful business to be in, not to mention a well paying business.”

Holmes hopes by promoting and supporting skilled labour, there will be fewer chances for unskilled contractors to remain in the trade.

“I see the results everyday. There are families who could potentially lose their homes because of poor construction work,” Holmes said. “The majority are under the assumption that minimum code requirement is great, and that’s not the case.

“So there is a lot of work that needs to be done to bring building standards up, and one way is through education.”

While the Holmes on Homes show features mostly residential renovations “gone bad,” executive director of The Holmes Foundation, Ingrid van Weert, noted there would be no distinction between youths wishing to enter the residential or the non-residential sector.

“After all, if you train a plumber, for example, he/she can work in either sector, so we won’t just concentrate on either one,” she said.

“We are just interested in seeing more young people get involved in the trade.”

The Holmes Foundation will be working with Ontario colleges to set up skilled trades’ partnership programs.

Holmes is involved with Conestoga College to help set up The Skilled Trades Centre of Excellence, which will focus on the renovation aspect of construction.

The centre will also focus on apprenticeships and technician programs, and will be housed on a 12-acre brownfield site that is being renovated.

“We are going to expand our existing construction trades like plumbing and carpentry, but we will also add new programs like drywalling and roofing,” said Dr. John Tibbits, president of Conestoga College.

“[The Centre] was needed because Kitchener is facing a tremendous shortage of workers, not only in numbers, but also in people who are genuinely qualified to work in the field.”

The program will provide students with both in-class training and field experience (which will count towards their apprenticeship hours).

Plans also include an on-line learning Renovation Technician course to allow for distance learning.

“This is a beautiful business to be in.”

Mike Holmes, Holmes on Homes

“There is nothing like this program out there. Most programs concentrate on standard building, but it doesn’t work that way,” Holmes said.

The Foundation also plans a series of events across Canada next year to help raise awareness about the current shortage of skilled trades in the construction industry. The events will vary from province to province and will end with a gala in B.C. in January 2008.

“Some of these events will focus on getting young people into the trades and others will try to encourage employers to hire more apprentices,” said van Weert.

“We will be focusing on employers because, in the short time the Foundation has been running, we have already realized that one major problem facing the trades is there are not enough employers committed to hiring apprentices.”

van Weert noted the Foundation’s focus on building apprenticeship partnerships resulted from numerous emails received “from young people who want to enter a trade and have been looking for an apprenticeship, but can’t find one.”

The Foundation started in late April and is currently working on developing partnership with both the Construction Sector Council and Skills Canada, van Weert said.

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