Richard Lyall / RESCON
Carolyna Leonardo is living proof that there is no typical residential construction worker.
The East York-born teenager is in her final year at Emery Collegiate Institute in North York and recently completed her co-op placement in wood framing at LiUNA Local 183’s Training Centre in Vaughan.
She spent her entire school day working on a two-storey detached house within the training centre for eight weeks as part of her career path into the trades through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP). OYAP is a school-to-work program that opens the door for students to explore and work in apprenticeship occupations starting in Grade 11 or 12 through the Cooperative Education program.
“I was training to be a general labourer in the pre-apprenticeship program through OYAP,” Leonardo told RESCON. “I enjoyed it. Every day was always exciting to learn something new, whether it was house framing or something else at the training centre. I enjoyed enhancing the skills that I’ll need for work eventually.”
Among the skills she learned were building exterior load bearing walls, interior walls (partitions) and floors, as well as appropriate calculations involved when framing a home, and health and safety.
Leonardo first discovered her love of working with her hands in shop class. There, she thrived at measuring, cutting, working with a scroll saw, as well as repairing couches and chairs for her school’s teachers. “My teacher, Mr. McDonald, prepared me by always saying you should measure twice and cut once in order to preserve material. He made us familiar with the different types of drawing, figuring out the dimensions when they aren’t familiar to you, so I already had that foundation before moving on.”
From there, she took a construction class: “I loved it. I found I was always learning new things and always asking questions.”
OYAP students, Local 183 workers and RESCON builders gather in front of the two-storey house where the students train within the LiUNA Local 183 Training Centre in Vaughan.
Leonardo took part in a carpentry competition through the Toronto District School Board and tied for first place with three other boys, who later joined her with more than 30 students in the OYAP program at the training centre: “I know there are a lot of opportunities out there so I was excited to see where OYAP could take me.”
The training centre partners with the Toronto Catholic District School Board, Toronto District School Board as well as the Peel District School Board in an eight-week program before going out to job placements.
The leadership at the training centre take pride at filling the skills gap, as many trades professionals are preparing to retire.
“We’re proud of our partnership with OYAP,” says Lisa Pryce, LiUNA Local 183 Training Centre’s manager for the apprenticeship and construction skills programs. “It is important that every key stakeholder in the construction industry – including LiUNA Local 183 – plays a role in recruiting and training the labourers of tomorrow. We’re doing what we can to fill the ranks as many retirees get set to call it a career.
“Carolyna is a great example of a student who thrives in a practical learning environment and has a strong work ethic. We need more students with her very positive attitude, whether they’re women or men.
Carolyna Leonardo, right, is hard at work in the LiUNA Local 183 Training Centre.
“It’s a very exciting time to look for a job in construction. We have had much success with assisting the younger generation in discovering how lucrative the field of construction can be.”
The program’s tuition costs $900. When it is complete, graduates receive a certificate of completion.
Leonardo, who wants to be a contractor, said the OYAP program is steering her in the right direction.
“It is a stepping stone to opening my own company one day,” she said. “I would like to become a foreman and get some experience with that position, and then open my own company. That’s what I want to work my way up to. I feel like I’m going to break new ground, and I feel that a woman should be encouraged to take these classes and go into these careers as much as men are.
“I’m very grateful for this OYAP program for teaching me discipline. I’m so glad I got to take advantage of it.”
Richard Lyall, president of RESCON, has represented the building industry in Ontario since 1991. He is also a frequent speaker and writer on issues related to the construction industry. Contact him @RESCONprez or at email@example.com.