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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
Smooth sailing for apprentice

By Linda White
Special to the Toronto Sun

As a young girl, Kathleen Bunnett enjoyed watching her grandfather craft furniture from wood. A few years later, after she helped him build a boat, she knew choosing a career would be smooth sailing.
Cabinetmaker apprentice and OYAP student Kathleen Bunnett works alongside accomplished cabinetmakers, helping build and finish kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

"I like seeing the finished product and how good it looks," says Bunnett, a cabinetmaker apprentice. "A lot of my friends are surprised by my decision, but I really enjoy what I do. That's what is driving me."

After taking wood construction courses, the Grade 12 Ajax High School student landed a co-op placement last year at Alpine Custom Cabinets and Furniture in Ajax.

She works alongside accomplished cabinetmakers, helping build and finish kitchen and bathroom cabinets with tools like table and chop saws, hand tools and drills.

Bunnett registered with the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), a school-work transition program sponsored by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. She plans to continue learning on the job and take courses as required by her trade.

Students must be at least 16 years old before registering with OYAP, which helps them obtain placements in one of 130 skilled trades in the auto service, construction, service and manufacturing sectors.

They earn co-operative education credits through placement in an apprenticeship while completing their diploma. At the same time, the hours they work on the job are put towards journeyperson certification.

Many students appreciate a new way of learning. "One of the first things I hear from students in OYAP is that it is such a break from sitting in a classroom," says co-op teacher Lamar Dodsworth.
Cabinetmakers use machinery, power and hand tools to construct products made from wood and related materials.

Apprenticeship training is recommended for those wanting to work in this field.
  • People training to be cabinetmakers may write an exam to work anywhere in Canada. It typically takes about four years to complete this apprenticeship.
  • To be successful in this trade, you need manual dexterity and organizational skills. You must be able to do hard physical work, read blueprints, visualize and interpret multi-dimensional concepts. Recommended skills include woodworking, carpentry, drafting and blueprint reading.

  • "OYAP kids are feeling good about what they're doing and what they want to do," he says. "They get to learn about a career first hand and even if they decide it's not for them, they've learned something valuable."

    Employers are key to the success of OYAP. Many remember the value of their own apprenticeship and are willing to make the same commitment someone once gave them.

    "If we don't train the kids, we have no one for the future," says Alpine Custom Cabinets owner Derek Johannessen. "Already, it's difficult to find candidates with the skills and commitment needed to be successful."

    Bunnett demonstrates both. "She pays close attention to detail, which is crucial in this trade," Johannessen says. "She looks for defects before cabinets go to the finishing booth for spray finishes. She is dedicated to learning more and shows up to work every day with a good attitude."

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