By: Mike Anderson
With all the obstacles the GTTI Skilled Trades Institute has overcome this year, including limits on class sizes and moving an entire campus on short notice, it wasn’t a surprise that graduation day would pose its own unique set of challenges.
The institute’s faculty and staff had initially planned to hold a single graduation event for its first cohort of 75 pre-apprentice graduates at the Sutton Arena, the new temporary home for its plumbing, carpentry and electrical programs.
But despite being below the arena’s 15 per cent capacity limit, the Town wasn’t keen on the idea.
So they split the graduating class into eight small 1-hour classroom ceremonies that ran over two days to accommodate social distancing and capacity restrictions.
While the classroom ceremonies were decidedly low-key, with the instructors giving out certificates and no family members present, most agreed it was better than a virtual graduation.
The speeches, although short and sweet, seemed heartfelt. The applause was genuine. Everyone in attendance was happy for the students and what they had accomplished over the past 26 weeks.
After a series of group photos, the graduates signed their names on a big banner mounted on the arena’s sideboards and wished each other success in their new careers.
Ryan Taylor, 28, from Newmarket, has already lined up a job with his fellow classmate Chase Watts at R.A. Graham Electrical Contractors in Richmond Hill.
He credits his electrical instructor Devon Dwinnell for teaching the skills he needed to get the job.
“Devon is a great instructor. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning from him,” Taylor said.
“He prioritized the skills and knowledge that we’re going to need to do the job. And it’s already proven to be useful to me, even in the two weeks I’ve worked so far.”
“And the staff at GTTI were tremendously helpful with finding the job that I’m currently working now. So, it’s been very important in starting my career as an electrician.”
Taylor, who used to work as a forklift operator, encourages young people to enroll in GTTI if they’re thinking about a career in the skilled trades.
“If you want a job in the trades. I think this is a great start to that. And it’s free. You can’t beat that.”
Keswick resident Deidra Jordan, 23, who originally studied chemical engineering technology and is the only female student in her electrical class, is still finalizing her apprenticeship. But she’s confident that she will land one soon.
“For women, it’s definitely going to be harder because there are some men that just see you as a woman. But as long as you have the right mindset and the right attitude, you’re going to be fine,” she said.
“If you like being hands-on, I’d recommend it 100 per cent. I’ve always been a hands-on person. I can’t sit at a desk all day. I always like to be moving around and doing something.”
Director Phil Adams is pleased with the institute’s progress over the past six months.
“We are over 60 per cent placement for all students. So it’s very much a success story,” he said.
“I’ve been in post-secondary for a number of years. And this success rate is better than I’ve ever seen achieved in the trades.”
He’s also confident that the institute will have no problem attracting students for its summer session.
“We’ve wait-listed in some of our trades already. And we are poised to begin July 5 with a full complement of 120 students.”