On the 7th June, Neil and I went on a tour of BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology) in Burnaby. This place was massive, I’d say bigger than half the universities and their campus back home. We met the lovely Marita Luk who is the Business Development Manager, and she oversaw the tour around the complex. We only saw one third of all BCIT but in that third we were able to see the following workplaces; Welding, Steel Trades, Piping Trades, Carpentry, Joinery, Sheet Metal and the High Performance Building lab and Biomass.
All of these were extremely eye opening, not only to witness how the apprentices work differently to back home, but why they do the things they do. In all of Vancouver and a good proportion of BC, pipes run underground meaning that piping is one of the biggest trades over here.
There are big differences in the duration that apprentices spend at school. Each time an apprentice is sent to school, they are gone for 6 weeks at a time, compared to East Coast Apprenticeships and other companies alike in Australia where the apprentice is only sent for 1 or 2 weeks at a time. Also when the apprentice is qualified into a Journey Man (tradesman) they need to then complete the ‘Red Seal test’. This test incorporates all the different topics that were taught over the 3 or 4 years of the apprenticeship and Red Seal applies with every single trade. (Red Seal is a national recognised trade qualification across Canada.)
Before I could begin work, I had to visit Finishing Trades Institute (FTI) to complete a hearing test, aerial lift, elevated platform and fall protection courses. I have never heard of hearing tests for tradesman being compulsory in Australia so when I was informed of this, I was amazed. Over the past few years in BC, hearing tests have shot up with a good reason. Exposure to excessive noise is in fact, the most common industry health hazard, as well as being the most difficult hazard to detect. Which makes perfect sense because as soon as your ears are damaged, they are damaged for life, they can’t repair themselves. Each year, each trade worker must go back to get the same test to see if there’s any major changes detected.
I began my first day of work with Westcan Painting and Decorating on the 10th of June. Little did I know, this company works within the Union and this was the first time walking into a union site. I met with Joe Silva (Supervisor of Westcan) at 6:00 AM and he and Justin Chapman (Business Representative with the Union District Council 38) hooked me up with a tool bag and suitable tools for work. My first job site was Level 22 and 23 in the Guinness Tower, Vancouver. This job has amazing views of the port, downtown Vancouver, the mountains and the sea planes that fly in and out all day. I was working with a tradesman, David Belleau. He was amazing, he not only showed me things within the painting industry, but gave me an insight to how all the different trades work in BC.