SEP 20, 2023 - Rob Duncan, who belongs to the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, is an instructor in Prince George for the Carpenters’ Regional Council (CRC), of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.
"I teach Fall Protection, Confined Space, mobile elevated work platforms, scaffolding, apprenticeship, and deliver programs we call ‘boot camps,’ job-specific courses to give community members the basic knowledge about opportunities in the trades," specifically in carpentry and scaffolding.
"I also teach trades awareness in scaffolding and carpentry, which is introductory level."
Duncan is a Red Seal carpenter and entered the trades while putting himself through university, whereupon he decided on carpentry over psychology for his professional life.
"It was in the back of my mind to train people in apprenticeships when I was working. I was always the apprentice-training guy on the crew." Duncan mentored dozens of men and women into the carpentry trade while he was in the field.
Now age 37, and experienced, "I was in the right place at the right time to start teaching where I am right now,” he says.
The skilled trades in Canada are a huge opportunity for people to enter the workforce in a meaningful way. “We have an influx of people trying to get into our programs in B.C.," he adds. Duncan is aware of provincial variations in the administration of trades in Canada, as he has worked in several provincial jurisdictions as a Red Seal ticketed tradesperson. "Provincial jurisdictions vary on the training side. However, once you have the Red Seal, no one can take it from you."
For the past year, Duncan has delivered boot camps that range up to 40 hours in duration, in remote locations to provide community members, including First Nation communities, with insight into training and employment opportunities. The Kitselas and Gitxaala Nations, in the northwest coast region of B.C., were recent communities to receive the introductory level training.
The CRC’s introduction to scaffolding program was customized to prepare its participants to work on the LNG Canada project in the area of Kitimat, B.C. Scaffolding is a sub-trade within the trade of general carpentry that involves the construction of temporary structures used to support workers and materials, a critical component in many energy projects.
“Having our own trainers allows us to adapt our programs to meet the requirements of our signatory contractors,” says Mike Berarducci, a CRC representative. “We covered the different scaffolding systems being used on that project, Layher and Peri. Our signatory contractors supplied the required gear. We also covered the day-to-day FLHA [Field Level Hazard Assessment forms] that our new members will be using," he says, adding, "Introducing the students to this paperwork prepares them for what lies ahead.”
The participants also learned various transferable skills, from safety skills to knots and vocabulary. And by the end of the program, the participants had built scaffolds using both Layher system scaffolding and Peri scaffolding and were able to identify each component of both systems.
"The pictures show our students building Layher system scaffolding. This is the most common scaffold system used in the industry today and is included in all scaffold training courses. The requirement for this course was a standard 4’x7’ scaffold. However, having two trainers delivering the course, Rob and myself, allowed us to explore other options this system has to offer. Each student completed their 4’x 7’ build and then went on to complete two different options for stairs.”
He adds, “While tying knots might seem like a minor task, it is imperative that our members know the proper way to tie knots and how to apply them in the field. Each student was required to complete three standard knots to complete the course, the clove hitch, the bowline, and the timber hitch."
"In just 40 hours these students learned the necessary skills to join the team at the LNG Canada project and were prepared for the work that will be expected of them."
"We design programs for each scenario," says Duncan. "This time we did four days in a row, ten hours a day, and it was fairly intense. Everybody did well. Three things I am looking for are: participation in the course, competency with knots, and knowledge of scaffold components. I want them to be able to see them reaching for the right parts."
"In this apprenticeship course, trades capability is essential, monitored, and tested. Every day of instruction is monitored and registered by SkilledTradesBC, and we record the hours of each apprentice that takes the course.
He says there are many apprenticeship opportunities in the cities, which isn't always the case in rural Canada, and especially in the communities of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
"For Indigenous communities we are trying to design programs for the industries that operate in traditional territories or near communities." The ability to recruit locally is an advantage to industry. The opportunity for career-based employment in remote places appeals to Indigenous families who want jobs but want community and family life available as well.
Duncan says, "I get a lot from this job. I feel I have come full circle. Before I took this job as a CRC trainer, I was a foreman and a general site supervisor. But I love the 'aha moments' you see from students while teaching." He delivers courses to everyone. "The trades are no longer gender-biased, and they are not aged-biased. We train men and women of all ages, from every kind of background."
Tradespeople know Canada is working its way into a labour shortage. Meanwhile, schools often promote a university education over a trades education. "For me, the trades were the chance to put myself in a position of being the best I can be."
Contact Mr. Berarducci and Mr. Duncan, or contact the CRC via phone or website for more information.