CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


Colleges keen to embrace training of apprentices

By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun

Ontario's colleges are stepping up to the plate with the newest technology and flexible programs for apprenices needing to complete their levels of in-school training and those wanting to explore the trades and launch an apprenticeship. The Humber Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning in Toronto has invested $800,000 since last year in new equipment and facilities for its electrician, plumbing and boilermaker apprenticeship programs.

The construction and maintenance electrician apprenticeship program is its most popular, attracting 1,600 to 2,000 apprentices each year. The plumbing program receives the second highest annual enrolment, with 500 to 600 apprentices.

"Construction trades in general are in high demand right now," says Joe Tomona, associate dean of applied technology. "The demand for electricians is increasing. The technology is evolving as we speak." Construction and maintenance electrician apprentices serve a 9,000-hour apprenticeship with hours allocated toward three levels of in-school training. Depending on the employer's schedule, an apprentice will attend either day-release schooling (one day per week from September through June) or block-release schooling (periods of eight to 10 weeks, depending on the level). The curriculum includes theory, trade practice, blueprint reading and electronics courses.

Humber also offers an industrial electrician apprenticeship. Construction and maintenance electricians may choose to specialize in such areas as fire alarm and security, while industrial electricians can specialize in such areas as automated controls, production controls and building systems controls.

Pre-apprenticeship programs offer another route to enter the trades. At Seneca College of Applied Arts & Technology in Toronto, the pre-apprenticeship mechanical techniques program gives students a foundation in tool and die making, mould making and general machining.

"Those three trades are closely related," says Ken Ellis, program co-ordinator at the college's Centre of Advanced Technologies. "It makes them very flexible, so as they become more acquainted with the careers, they can make a seamless transition into their chosen trade," he says. Students can choose to complete a two-year diploma in mechanical engineering technician (tool design) before serving their apprenticeship. Alternatively, they can earn a certificate after one year, serve their apprenticeship and return to school to complete their diploma at a later time. "We have tried to create those crossovers so students can build on what they have," Ellis says. Students who successfully complete the certificate portion of the program will be exempted from the first two levels of the in-school component of their apprenticeship. That, Ellis says, makes pre-apprenticeship graduates attractive to employers.

"They're more marketable to employers because their employers won't lose them for periods of time throughout their apprenticeship."

Sheridan College in Oakville also offers a pre-apprenticeship skills program designed to introduce students to the foundation skills in the metal cutting industry. It has recently received funding that will allow it to purchase a new punch press.

Sheridan is located in the hub of a large manufacturing area where there's high demand for metal cutting trades. It also offers tool maker, tool and die maker, general machinist, mould maker and pattern maker apprenticeship programs.

"It's the cheapest education going," Donald Wiles, associate dean of skilled trades/corporate education and training says of apprenticeship. "You earn money all along and are ready to really launch your career when you're done. It has to be something you like to do. You have to like precision. If you're really good, you'll never be out of work because you're in such demand."

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

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