Port Hope, Ont. was the site of this year’s Carpenters’ Union Provincial Apprenticeship Contest where 11 carpenter apprentices, nine drywall applicators and four floor layers competed for the right to represent Ontario in the union’s national apprenticeship contest this August in Edmonton.
Held at Carpenters Local 397's union hall, the two-day event saw Local 27, Toronto, take home top honours in carpentry and floor installation. Hamilton's Local 18 representative won the drywall competition.
But all competitors were winners, according to Joel Neville, co-ordinator with Local 397. Just making it to the competition is an accolade.
Neville says the carpentry category "emphasized practical projects."
On day one, competitors made a pair of sawhorses with 100-pound capacity, a ladder that meets Occupational Health and Safety Act standards and a set of stairs designed for a construction trailer.
"These are projects that they should be doing when they are dispatched on their first day on the job," says Neville.
On the second day, contestants built formwork with anchor bolts and ties for a four-by-eight-foot wall — work typically performed on big commercial jobs. Carpentry judge Andre Robichaud says contestants were evaluated for their adherence to the drawing specifications and assembly in accordance with best practice.
"If we poured concrete into it, would it hold?" he says.
"They don't have 20 years of experience in this stuff so we don't expect them to get it perfect," says Robichaud, a health and safety consultant with the province's Infrastructure Health and Safety Association, who also has 30 years of experience as a carpenter.
Anthony Simone, an instructor at the Interior Finishing Systems Training Centre in Woodbridge, designed the two-day drywall project describing it as "a room with a lot of geometrical shapes."
"What I wanted to create was not a difficult project but something that would test their knowledge of geometrical shapes and construction," he says.
Simone says one of the challenges as an instructor is to teach apprentices to "plan out all the steps" to a project.
Drywall judge Ted Arbour says contestants scored points for layout, plans reading ability and quality of workmanship.
"Everything had to fit nicely, be braced properly and look square. You can't just put things up quickly without paying attention to detail because you don't want to have to rebuild it," Arbour adds. "On the job, someone might tell them to go quickly, but in my experience you have to take your time to build it right the first time."
Flooring contestants were required to install luxury vinyl tile (LVT) with inlays and angles.
Steve Zizek, a flooring instructor with the College of Carpenters and Allied Trades (CCAT), says while the project encapsulated "a lot of different components" in a small format, contestants performed work they would commonly do on the job.
He says because flooring is "highly cosmetic, the sky's the limit" on design.
"Floors are a lot flashier (with borders, inlays, 45 degree angles, for example) now than 20-30 years ago when they were mostly just one solid color," he says, adding there is growing demand for skilled floor layers because many of the tradespeople in the field are nearing retirement.
The same can be said for many building trades.
Drywall is a case in point. But Simone says there is a stigma attached to the trade.
"A lot of people still think that anyone working with their hands in the trade probably hasn't finished high school and isn't the brightest. That's not the case," he says.
"There are a lot of smart and skilled people in the trades and there is no reason why you can't (in drywall trade) make over $100,000 (annually)."
He says apprenticeship contests can help the public understand that the trades can be viable careers.
This is the second time that Local 397 has held the annual contest. The first time was in 2007, says Neville.
Winners of the Carpenters Union Provincial Apprenticeship Contest
1st: Brad Russell – Local 27 Toronto
2nd: Jason Burke – Local 93 Ottawa
3rd: James Nazvesky – Local 1669 Thunder Bay
1st: Erik Van Den Breemen – Local 18 Hamilton
2nd: Domingos Pereira – Local 675 Toronto
3rd: Stephen Honders – Local 2041 Ottawa
1st: Trevor Tompkins – Local 27 Toronto
2nd: Brain Haist – Local 93 Ottawa
3rd: Claude Gelinas – Local 2486 Sudbury