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OYAP carpenter wants to build her own house

By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun

As a young girl, Stefanie Kentner loved working as her dad's assistant whenever he tackled household chores. Years later, they continue to work together, and could even team up one day to fulfill her dream of building her own house.
"I like working with my hands. It gives you such a good feeling when you step back and look at what you've done," says OYAP carpenter Stefanie Kentner, in blue.

"I like working with my hands," says the 18-year-old Toronto resident. "It gives you such a good feeling when you step back and look at what you've done."

Kentner further explored her interest in woodworking through a Grade 12 co-op placement at Alexander's Gallery in Toronto, where she repaired and finished antique and custom furniture.

The Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School student signed on with the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) and successfully applied to the Toronto Catholic District School Board's carpentry program.

Students accepted into the carpentry program attend Archbishop Romero Catholic Secondary School for four weeks in the second semester of their graduating year.

They study geometry, blueprint reading, drafting and other courses in preparation for eight weeks of intensive hands-on learning at the Carpenters' Local 27 Training Centre.

"It is physically demanding work, but you just rise to the occasion," says Kentner. A recent OAC graduate, she plans to take framing, scaffolding and welding courses.

She has returned to work with Toronto's road division, where she worked last year as a summer student, building desks and repairing cabinets, windows and locks. She hopes the position will lead to a full-time job.

Students accepted in the school board's carpentry program must meet high expectations. They are assigned two to three hours of homework each day, must maintain a minimum average of 60% in each course and must be punctual.

"We've got students from all across the city," says Carlos Simas, a construction technology teacher at Archbishop Romero. He teaches the course along with Ted Staruszkiewicz from Bishop Morrocco/Thomas Merton Catholic Secondary School.

"Some are getting up as early as 5:30 in the morning to get to the training centre on time," Simas says. "They can only be late or absent five times. If it's any more than that, they're kicked out."

The program boasts a high success rate. "Students just step up in such a big way," Simas says. "I have no doubt it's because they see the opportunity to get their diploma and get a job."

Graduates quickly find job placements. "There are literally hundreds of employers out there," says Cristina Selva, director of training with Local 27.

"The industry is crying for new workers. These students are getting a head start."

Apprentices earn $14.50 an hour plus benefits and pension. After completing journeyperson certification, which takes about four years, they can earn $70,000 a year.

"Carpentry tends to be one of the most promotable trades," Selva says. "Carpenters are on site from start to finish, from forming right through to interior finishes.

"Because they get an extensive view of how all trades are involved in the whole project, they can become site superintendent and earn up to $120,000 a year," she says. "There are a lot of opportunities."

(Linda White ( is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)

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