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Apprentices receive well-deserved recognition

By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun

A graduation ceremony that honours apprentices who have successfully completed journeyperson certification also recognizes their dedication and commitment.

"More than anything, I felt like I had accomplished something," says Pedro Correia, 29, of Mississauga.

He was one of 377 apprentices registered with the Mississauga Apprenticeship Office invited to attend Apprenticeship Graduation 2003. The fourth annual event was held June 13 at Stage West All Suites Hotel in Mississauga.
Back (l to r): Derek Booth, organizing committee chairperson, and honourees Journeyperson of the Year Awards: John Van Heusden, Ross Kalanda, Peter Smith, Paolo Glorioso, Ed Tooke on behalf of Len Rice and Mary Joe Freire. Front (l to r): Sandie Birkhead Kirk, director of apprenticeship and Emily Azubalis, acting area manager of the Mississauga apprenticeship office.

Correia had worked as a mechanic for 12 years before deciding to become a licensed automotive service technician. It took him three years to achieve his goal, working full time at Humberview Motors Inc. and attending Centennial College at night.

"It was tough," Correia says. "So many times I felt like dropping out, but I wanted the respect that comes with that piece of paper. Now I have it."

Many apprentices experience the same challenge. But unlike college and university graduates, there was no formal ceremony to recognize their efforts.

"Years ago, there was a conception that if you weren't able to finish high school, you'd get into a trade," says Derek Booth, a training consultant with the Mississauga Apprenticeship Office, one of 26 Ministry of Training, Colleges and University apprenticeship offices in Ontario.

"We're trying to rightly establish that apprentices are getting an education through a process that takes four or five years. For them to graduate without getting a pat on the back didn't seem right," says Booth, chairman of the committee that organized the graduation.

"It was great to see the graduates coming off the stage congratulating each other and shaking hands," Booth says. "You could see how proud they were of their accomplishment."

The ceremony is an opportunity for apprentices and their employers to recognize one another. "It was emancipating," says Lisa Gale, 31, of Brampton. "That was my final certificate, saying I'm a certified journeyman."

Gale began her apprenticeship with Supply Chain Management in 1997 while raising a young son.

"Sometimes it was hard, but it was a challenge I'd be willing to take on again anytime," Gale says.

"The ceremony was the stepping stone that took me from student to being a teacher," Gale says, recognizing the role she now has in training apprentices.

The graduation ceremony also celebrates the value of employers to the apprenticeship system.

"As an employer, we are proud of our apprentices," says Houri Torossian of Duplex Electrical in Mississauga, one of the companies that sponsored the event.

"We've seen our electricians go through the steps necessary to become licensed journeymen. You see them develop their skills and become more confident," Torossian says.

The event is as rewarding for the employer as it is for the graduate apprentices.

"As an employer, you've been alongside them every step of the way. It's almost like you're graduating too," says Rosana Armata of 427 Auto Collision.

Recipient of last year's Employer of the Year Award from the Ministry, 427 Auto Collision is committed to its role as educator.

"It's a big commitment for an employer, but not one that's encumbering." Armat says.

"It's not an easy program and for a long time, apprentices were overlooked," she says. "With this graduation ceremony, they're getting their recognition."

(Linda White is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont. and can be reached at

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