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Apprentice Spotlight

Nana Aburam

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Nana Aburam. I was born in Ghana, West Africa. Most of my upbringing has been in Toronto. I live with my mom, stepdad, and little brother. I was the first person in my family to go to university, so it was an accomplishment. I play a lot of soccer, and right now I’m really into movies and video games. I’m not married and have no kids yet, but maybe later down the road, I will. On a regular day when I’m not working, I’m usually outside with my friends.

How did you get into the sprinkler fitter trade?

When I finished high school and before I went to university, I had a friend who was part of a group called Hammerheads. It is a program that brings youths into the trades. He told me to come join the program, but I was hesitant because I was the first person in my family to go to university, so I wanted to accomplish that first. When I was in my third year, I spoke to him again and ended up going into a three-month program. They took us to different unions so we can get a feel for them and I ended up choosing the sprinkler fitter trade. It is a really productive program because it gives you a lot of opportunities and it only requires a little bit of your time.

What do you like best about the trade?

My favourite part is the continuous learning. It is something that stuck out for me. You don’t learn one thing and do it every day. Each day is something new, a challenge, and you get to try different things. The people I worked with gave me the opportunity to learn. This job has a really important purpose – you are actually protecting a lot of lives. When I was younger, one of my friend’s house burned down. It is very personal and something I want to help with.

Where are you currently working?

I currently work for Automated Fire. It is based in Mississauga. I started working with them and they gave me a lot of opportunities to learn – it was actually hands-on, which gives you the experience you need. I have a close relationship with the people I work with, especially with my foreman Rob. We talk about the trade and he gives me advice on how to act on the job site and what to watch out for. It is a very warm and family-like company.

What would you say to somebody considering working in the trade to convince them to check out sprinkler fitting?

It changed my life. If you are not directly in the field, you may not be aware of it, but once you are in it, you realize the importance of what you are doing for the community. My advice is if you have the opportunity, take a look into it. It changes your life. You meet different types of people, gain the ability to learn independently and as a group, and learn how to problem solve because each day you face different challenges.

Do you have a goal once you finish the apprenticeship?

I appreciate learning, and this trade is something that you never stop learning from. My objective is to learn as much as I can. I also want to become a fire marshal, and I thought this would be a good stepping stone. After I am done, I will take night school at Seneca to advance my education. In terms of this trade, I want to pick up as much information as I can and reach the highest level of workmanship I can get to. There is always a different system coming out, and I want to be proficient in anything that comes out.

Have you faced any obstacles in the course?

In this course, math is an obstacle I face. I always struggled with it, even in high school. But the teachers here do a really good job of breaking it down for you. They are always there after school if you need help, or you can send them an email. I feel that their teaching type is for everybody because they can show you and help you work through it. For some people, that’s what they need – especially me. Once I get it, it is straightforward. The teaching quality is better than high school! Here, the teachers make sure you understand because math is a big part of our trade. They want everybody to succeed.

In the trade overall, I was someone that had to fully understand what I was doing before I started doing it. But when you start working, you are thrown into the job and have to learn as you go. Luckily for me, I was placed with a good fitter, Rob, who was patient with me and made sure I understood what I was doing and the reason why I was doing it. When I started school, I had good knowledge. I felt that it was good to have him on my side. You also have to be aware while onsite and focus on what you are doing. It was a different shift from being in university and sitting in a class. This is my first time doing anything trade-related, so it was a different environment for me; but I felt comfortable throughout the Hammerhead program, and now I am confident working by myself.

Do you feel like this decision to get into sprinkler fitting has helped you financially and build goals for yourself personally?

Massively. I was in debt before getting into this trade, but four months ago I paid off my OSAP. It helps you financially, but the people at Hammerhead also help you with financial planning. You get a lot of money, and if you do not manage it well, it is easy to blow it away. They set me up in a way that would help me accomplish my future goals. There are ways to be productive citizens – I think this helped set me up on a straight path. You earn your money legally, and you don’t have to look back.

What advice would you give to first-year apprentices?

Be willing to do things that are out of the ordinary for you and be flexible because you are put into different environments. None of your foremen are going to let you do something that is not safe. Also, be on time! Not just showing up, but mentally as well. It’s one thing to be at work, but be there mentally to learn, because there is something new every day. The more you apply the things you learned to your fitter performance, the more freedom you get. From there you get job stability.

Learn about money management – go to the bank and get a financial planner. If you do not know how to successfully plan what you are spending and saving, you’ll throw money away. Take care of yourself, take care of your family financially for the years ahead and have goals. It is important to have goals in the trade – if you want to own your own company, be a fitter, or be a foreman – you have to plan ahead and focus on what you want to accomplish.

Personally, this has been a life-changing experience for me. Coming out of high school I didn’t know where to go career-wise, but coming here has kept me on a straight path and given me something to look forward to in the future. If you get involved and want to learn, it is very satisfying. I have never had a day in my life where I woke up and did not want to go to work – I always wake up happy to go to work.

Dana Lavigne

Dana Lavigne

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Dana Lavigne. I’m a fourth year apprentice out of Ottawa. I am 28 years old. I have a dog and I live with my boyfriend. I like to run and ski – I used to ski race. I think I am really athletic, which helps in terms of being in a physical trade.

How did you get into the sprinkler fitter trade?

My brother-in-law is actually a sprinkler fitter. I used to work in tourism and I became Operations Manager for an activity based out of New Zealand. They permitted me to travel, so I lived in New Zealand and Singapore. I am originally from Mount Tremblant, Quebec. At the job, I worked with a lot of electrical and mechanical conveyers, which is what got me interested in the hands-on work. I talked to my brother-in-law and he was living in Ottawa. My dad was actually sick at the time – he is alright now – but that is what got me to move to Ottawa; to be closer to family. My brother-in-law really pushed me to get into it. I contacted his boss and he gave me the application to apply to the Local. It took about eight months to get in. It was a long process, but it is definitely worth it.

What do you like best about the trade?

I like that it is continuous learning. The environment is progressive and for me, especially as a female, I found it encouraging. I am the only female in Ottawa in the trade. I like the people I work with, I like being able to put in a good day’s work, and I like feeling accomplished. My foreman has been in the trade for 40 years and he is still learning, so I think that is really cool. It is not a stagnant environment. And I am getting strong doing it!

Where are you currently working?

I am currently working in Ottawa, at a company called Ottawa Sprinkler Installations (OSI). I have been working with them since I began. I think it is a really nice company to work for. It is family-based, and a lot of employees have been there for years, so it demonstrates loyalty.

What would you say to somebody considering working in the trade to convince them to check out sprinkler fitting?

Do it! You have to be willing to put in a good day’s work and come in with an upbeat, positive attitude, and be open-minded. There are many types of personalities on a job site, so you have to get along with people. It has great opportunities. It was well worth the process of getting in; I had to do aptitude tests and interviews. Especially to a female, I would say not to shy away. There are a lot of obstacles you have to face, whether it is physically unable to do something, or the fact that you are often the only girl on site. But as long as you come in with your head up, on time, and willing to work, then we are all just the same.

Do you have a goal once you finish the apprenticeship?

My goal is to finish my apprenticeship successfully, do as well as I can in school, and learn as much as I can. I would also like to develop a program that can influence women, girls, or kids to go into the trade. The sprinkler trade is often hidden, so a guidance program would be great. When I was in school they gave zero information when it came to the trades. It does not have to just be for females – a community outreach would be great. I would also like to develop a “Daddy-Daughter” program, to help with the sense of community.

Have you faced any obstacles in the course?

Sometimes, I have to live up to being the only female in the trade in Ottawa. There are physical challenges as well. But I have had a super positive experience in the field, especially with my co-workers, so I think the sense of brotherhood is really there. I definitely feel protected on the job site. It is nice that way because you just go to work, put in your day’s work, and that is it.

Do you feel like this decision to get into sprinkler fitting has helped you financially and build goals for yourself personally?

Absolutely. Compared to my previous job, I think is really cool when you come to work and you receive the same pay regardless. It is also nice that I am not “plateaued” – there was no progression at my old job, financially or mentally. Honestly, I was making more as a first year than I was after six years in my old company. There are also great benefits and gives you a sense of security, especially if I ever choose to have a family. I think it is really satisfying when you come home at the end of the day and you are tired, and you have done an honest day of work.

What advice would you give to first-year apprentices?

Have a positive attitude and be a sponge. Absorb as much information as you can. Show up on time and be ready to work! The notion of actually working is surprising to some – so you have to be willing to learn.

Mike Sevigny

Mike Sevigny

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Mike Sevigny, and I’m 26 years old. I’m a third-year sprinkler fitter apprentice and I work for Vipond Fire Protection. I am married and have a seven-week old daughter. I’m from Ottawa, Ontario. I work mainly in Ottawa, and I’m in trade school for my basic training right now. I like to hunt, fish, be outdoors, and four-wheeling – things like that.

2. How did you get into the sprinkler fitter trade?

I was a refrigeration apprentice prior to this trade. I knew a lot about pipe-fitting trades in general, but I had two friends that were sprinkler apprentices. From talking to them and finding out about what the Union had to offer, such as benefits, I decided to make the switch. My friends gave me the ins and outs of what they do on a daily basis and I liked what I heard, so I took the plunge and never turned back – and I’m glad I did!

3. What do you like best about the trade?

I like how there’s so much to do. There are lots of different things to learn and so many different systems. In Ottawa, there’s lots of work. You get to see a lot of different things and you’re not just doing the same thing every day. Obviously, the wage is good, the benefits through the Union are awesome, and it’s generally a good trade to get into as far as good, hard work. It’s honest work and it’s justified, so you feel like you’ve accomplished something at the end of the day.

4. Where are you currently working?

I work in Ottawa, Ontario, for Vipond Fire Protection. Being in a big company lets you work in a lot of different areas, which is good because you get to see what you like, don’t like, and learn the best techniques from different guys and how to become the best that you can be. The guys are awesome.

5. What would you say to somebody considering the trade to convince them to check out sprinkler fitting?

I would tell anybody that is looking to get into the trade to just do it – it’s an awesome trade. It may seem overwhelming at the start, but when you get in, you’ll realize that at the end of the day everybody is here to work hard and do the best work possible. It’s great pay and great benefits. There are also not a lot of guys in our actual Union, so in the coming years it’s going to get busier and busier and there will be a demand, so get in when you can. It’s only a four-year apprenticeship, so get that four years in, get your license, and after that the options are endless.

6. Do you have a goal once you finish the apprenticeship?

When I become a fitter after four years, I want to get licensed. After that, I want to be able to run my own jobs, run a crew of guys, and make the company money while getting the job done in a timely fashion. I want to be able to face challenges and work my way through them using the skills we learned in school and onsite, and make my name in the trade. I want to be known as a good fitter. It is a small industry, so if you have a bad name, people will know about it, so that’s probably something you don’t want.

7. Have you faced any obstacles in the course?

I came from a piping trade before, so in terms of the actual work aspect, it wasn’t really an obstacle for me. But the trade school is in Toronto, and I’m from Ottawa. It’s five hours away, so I have to find a spot to stay down here, and you have to pay for everything while not making a pay cheque. I have a newborn at home, so there’s expense there, and being away from my family is definitely tough. But at the end of the day, you only have to come three times during the four years. So I get it done and then I can go wherever I need.

8. Do you feel like this decision to get into sprinkler fitting has helped you financially and build goals for yourself personally?

Absolutely. The wage is phenomenal; it’s one of the better-paid trades. You can buy toys, buy a nicer house, and the financial stress is a lot less. I find that UA 853 is more team-oriented, and you’re put with guys to train you, so when you get licensed, you’ll have seen a lot of things. As you learn what you want to do and don’t want to do, bad habits and good habits from guys, you try to take everything so that when you do get your license you have all the good habits. I haven’t worked with anybody that I disliked – everybody is helpful.

9. What advice would you give to first-year apprentices?

Work hard. Nobody can get mad at you if you show up early and put in a good, hard day’s work. First-year apprentices don’t know very much depending on what their background is, so show up wanting to learn because guys will teach you if you show an effort to learn. Pay attention and once you get a grasp of things, everything will fall into place. Don’t ever be shy about asking questions; I was always the guy that asked questions and nobody ever told me, “Don’t ask any questions.” They always told me to ask more, and that’s how you learn. The guys have to teach while we’re working, so it’s hard for them to explain every single thing. But at break or lunchtime, ask them for help. The speed will come with experience; get good first, and get fast second, because you always want to install everything to the best of your ability and you don’t want to cut corners. It’s a long process and it can get grueling at times, but pull through it and don’t give up. It’s a great trade all around, and it’s been an awesome three years so far, and I can’t wait to become licensed. I’m really happy with my decision.

Justin Harper

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Justin Harper. I’m 27 and I live in Parham, Ontario. I do a lot of outdoor activities and a lot of sports. I enjoy baseball, hockey, and hunting. I’m married, and I have a three-year-old boy. I have another one on the way in June.

How did you get into the sprinkler fitter trade?
I got into the trade in 2014. I was working in construction before that. I had a couple of friends that worked in the sprinkler trade and they ran me through it and said how much they enjoyed working in it, and that I might give it a try too. It’s a good decision that I made to do that. I was a little skeptical because I didn’t really know anything about it. I’d seen sprinklers in the building and that was it, but when you really look into it, there’s a lot that goes into the trade.

What do you like best about the trade?
What I like best about it is that you see a lot of different stuff. You don’t just deal with one thing all the time. You’re always into something different every day and you get a lot of good experience when you’re dealing with business owners, or site foremen. I get a lot of experience just knowing how to talk to those people and explain everything that’s going on. It’s also good comradery with the guys you work with. Once you get to know somebody, you can always go after work and just talk for a bit or have a social club – that’s always good. The guys I work with always want to help you out, and they don’t mind you asking them about anything you need.

Where are you currently working?
I work in Kingston and I work for Drapeau Automatic. It’s a really good company to work for. It’s a good-sized company, but it always feels like you’re working in a smaller company because you know the bosses and what they want from you. You see them every day so it’s a good, close-knit company. They want to help you out as much as they can, and they want you to do well in your apprenticeship. They want to show that they can send good apprentices.

What would you say to somebody considering the trade to convince them to check out sprinkler fitting?
I would tell them that it’s a really good trade to get into. There’s a lot of future in it – you’re always going to need sprinklers in buildings. It’s good pay and it’s good benefits. It’s always nice when you know that once you’re done your career you’ll have something to look at with your pension. Sometimes it’s hard to get into something that will give you a pension. It’s nice to know that you can retire comfortably and not have to worry about working until you’re 80 years old. You also gain a lot of experience and new relationships with people. There’s always room for improvement.

Do you have a goal once you finish the apprenticeship?
My goal is to be able to run my own jobs, run my own schedule on my own job, and that the company that I work for will trust me to go to a job and get it done properly. I think I’m on track with my goal. That’s one of the good things about this – you learn from the guys you work with. They’re really good at running their own jobs and having good relationships with the people that they work for, such as supervisors and general contractors. Some of them are the best working with contractors.

Have you faced any obstacles in the course?
There are not a lot of obstacles; the only obstacle you have to get through is coming to the school. When it’s three hours away, you’re not making a regular paycheck, you got your bills to cover and you have to pay to live away, it puts a bit of strain on your family. It’s only eight weeks at a time, so you can kind of get through it for the most part. You know that after you’re done school, you’ll never have to worry about doing it again. When you’re done, you’re licensed, and that’s that.

Do you feel like this decision to get into sprinkler fitting has helped you financially and build goals for yourself personally?
It’s definitely helped out financially. When you go to a job and you’re happy with the paycheck you get at the end of it, you don’t have to worry about “Am I able to make payments?” Where we work, you look forward to when you get paid. If there’s anything extra, you save it or work towards saving up for toys you want; vehicles, cottage, trailer, whatever you like. I’d like to be able to have a cottage on a lake; to have somewhere to escape and relax, and enjoy it with my family as much as I can.

What advice would you give to first-year apprentices?
Just make sure you always put in your best work from the start. If the fitters you work for notice that you’re eager to learn, you want to learn all they have to teach you, and you take what they teach you and put it into the field, then they relay those messages to companies and let them know that you’re a good apprentice to have. Don’t let anything push you back. If something happens at a job site and you make a mistake, learn from those mistakes and just keep going forward. Don’t take two steps backwards or in the wrong direction. When I first started, I was not new to construction but new to the sprinkler trade. Coming in not knowing much about the trade specifically is a learning curve when you are placed with a guy that’s been in the trade for 35, 40 years – there’s so much he can teach you. I was always constantly asking questions. The more questions I asked, the more information they would give me. You learn quickly that there is a lot that goes into it. It is not just putting pipes in the air and hanging pipes. Don’t be afraid to go “back” to school – you’ll take what you learned in the field and apply it to school, so you won’t be going in blind. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

William Hay, February 2018

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is William Hay, I am 34 years old and I am from Ottawa, Ontario. I am happily married with a three-year old son and a dog. I like spending as much time as possible outside – skiing and biking, that sort of thing.

How did you get into the sprinkler fitter trade?
After university, I spent five years working in politics in an office. I learned a lot, but realized it wasn’t something for me. I wasn’t really satisfied with what I was doing and I wanted something a lot more hands-on, so I started working in construction for a general contractor and became a site foreman. I made friends with all of the sub-trades and made very good friends with the mechanical contractor, who offered me an apprenticeship, and I couldn’t say no to that opportunity.

What do you like best about the trade?
I like the satisfaction of being able to see the results of my efforts when I look back a week or a month afterwards and see the results and say “Yes, I accomplished that.” I also like that there is a lot of change. You’re not always in the same place. You might be for six months to a year, but there is always something new. I also like that I am making a difference, like potentially saving a life one day.

Where are you currently working?
I currently work for Protech Mechanical. We do a lot of hotels and condominiums. There is a lot of construction in Ottawa, the same as Toronto. The company is based out of Ajax, but they are building a team in Ottawa and although I am an apprentice right now, I will likely work there.

What would you say to somebody considering the trade to convince them to check out sprinkler fitting?
If they are physically fit and good at problem solving, then it is a fantastic trade. The pay is excellent and there are a lot of benefits. It is a small community, so there is a really good sense of brotherhood. The other fitters always help you out and want to see you succeed. It is a growing industry and it is at a great point and time to jump into the trade.

Do you have a goal once you finish the apprenticeship?
I am still a pretty young guy. I have a growing family, so I am happy at the moment. I do have long-term goals, 10 to 15 years from now, but at the moment I am vey happy. I would like to take on a leadership role [eventually], but other than that, I am happy with my current location.

Have you faced any obstacles in the course?
Having a family [in Ottawa] and having to travel for school is definitely very challenging. My wife has a decent income, but to take a leave of absence, go on EI, and then put 1,500 kilometers on my car every week, is taxing. Other challenges you face are some you would face in any field. There are going to be people you work well with, and others you don’t.

Do you feel like this decision to get into sprinkler fitting has helped you financially and build goals for yourself personally?
Definitely! I was making pretty good money before in politics, but I had no job satisfaction. This opportunity allows me to have both. There are a lot of benefits to working in this industry and it definitely is a good paying job even as an apprentice.

What advice would you give to first-year apprentices?
Be patient. Not all of the job sites, tasks or companies that you work for will be exactly what you dreamed of, but good things will come. It is not a static industry, you’re going to move around. Be patient and practice your math. It is something a lot of people neglect and the deeper you get into the trade, the more important it will become.

Eli Amsing, December 2017


Tell me about yourself.
I am 30 years old, married, with two girls. I work for Star Fire Systems based out of Concord. I’ve been in the trade for four and a half years. I don’t do a whole lot, work around the house, play sports, and spend time with the family. I enjoy mountain biking, skiing, and swimming.

How did you get into the trade?
A good friend of mine – I was a company owner before I got into [sprinkler fitting] – and I was encouraged by a couple different fitters that I knew. They kept pushing me to get into it, they saw my work ethic and wanted me to pursue it, probably for their benefit more than mine. I had the opportunity I took it, and I haven’t looked back since. It has been really good for me.

What do you like most about it?
It always changes, there is a lot of problem solving, plus it’s very physical. It’s nice to be able to go to work and work hard. The company that I ran before was in the construction business, so I was able to stay within the same environment but still get the benefits of working in the trade itself.

What would you say to somebody considering a trade?
Do it. Since I have a family, it was probably the best decision I could have made. I’ve never been laid off, and I’ve always had lots of work available. It’s very beneficial for somebody to have steady work, start a family. It’s a great trade to be in.

Has UA 853 been a part of that?
Absolutely. The guys here have been great. They’ve always answered any questions that I’ve had. The training centre itself has been phenomenal. There’s always somebody that is willing to help you out.

Do you have a goal once you finish the apprenticeship?
I’d like to run some jobs myself and see where that takes me. I’ve done sections of buildings or been left with certain responsibilities, but I’d like to start from scratch to finish and putting it right online, right to the part when occupancy takes place.

What kind of obstacles do you face?
A lot of the things I find challenging aren’t so much the work itself, it’s dealing with the other people onsite that may get in your way or say they’re not going to get in your way and don’t necessarily follow the print that’s set out for them. Trying to coordinate with those people, whether it be supervisors from other trades or foremen from other trades can be difficult depending on whether they’re willing to communicate with you and work together. Sometimes you get great working relationships and other times, it’s just luck of the draw and you get what you get.

Do you feel like the decision to get into sprinkler fitting has benefitted you financially?
Absolutely. Since getting into sprinklers, my wife has stopped working, we have had another child, and she’s been able to stay at home full-time. Had I stayed where I was before, she would actually be working full-time. For my family, this was the best possible decision that I could have made.

What advice would you give to first year apprentices?
Don’t get discouraged. Sometimes the guys can be hard on you, but they’re being hard on you for a reason. You’ll get that one guy that may be beating you down so hard, but you got to stick with it because we are not all like that. You need to pursue it, push through, and it only gets better every year. It progresses, and it definitely will advance your life style.

What can you say about your journey from first year to fourth year?
I was fortunate, I worked with the same fitter for three years, the one that got me into the trade. He was very good to me, gave me a lot of responsibilities. From working with him, I went for basic and intermediate. When I came out of intermediate, I worked with a different fitter who was also extremely good to me. He gave me, again, lots, probably more responsibility now that I’ve had the knowledge coming out of the training centre. From there, I’ve done a lot of work on my own under his guidance and he’s always checked up on me. You do the first couple years of your apprenticeship out on the road before you get back to the training centre and when you [return], it all starts to come full circle. Even coming out of this training block with advanced, it definitely all makes sense. From the first day you show up on site, everything is moving so fast, you expect to run – go get this, grab that – and when you get to this point that I’m at now, it definitely starts to make sense so that you’re ready to go out into the real world and pursue your trade.
Anyone that is looking to get into it, or get into a trade… it’s family, it’s good for you and it’s a good thing to get into.

Geoff Bonneville, October 2017


1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m from Barrie and I work for Starfire Systems, and they are based primarily in the GTA. I am doing a job in Barrie right now.

2. How did you get into the Sprinkler Fitter trade?
I did the three-year program at Seneca [College] for fire protection and engineering. I wanted to be a designer at the time…it was designing the systems that we put in. I went for a few interviews with some different companies for design and they kind of talked me out of it. My background is in construction, and that was a desk job, you know sitting at computers…they actually looked at my resume and asked if I was sure I wanted to continue. At that time, I had a family friend and I gave him my resume.

3.What do you like best about the trade?
I like that it is physical. There is a lot of problem solving. They [the construction and design jobs] all link together. I was always interested in the design aspect of it, so I knew a lot about the systems and it kind of transfers over when you’re installing it. But, yes I always liked working hard.

4. What would you say to someone considering the trade to convince them to check out sprinkler fitting?
Do it. Getting into trades…it’s a lot harder to get started. If you can get into the union and get past the recruitment process. If you’re trying to get into a trade you obviously know you want to be in a construction atmosphere. For me I have to be working [physically], and for me it is the problem solving. Every single day, problems come up that you have to be able to decide how to fix it or work around.

5. What are your goals once you finish the apprenticeship?
I was pretty lucky with my apprenticeship, I have a lot of responsibility already, but I am not managing jobs so I would like to get my own jobs and start running them.

6. Have you faced any obstacles in the course?
I found I struggled communicating with other teams or site supervisors. I didn’t struggle with any of the installing parts or learning how to do any of the piping, that was easy for me, but dealing with different trades, coordination, dealing with the site supervisors, just took some time getting used to. Which you don’t do a lot of as an apprentice, but as you’re given more responsibility and move on you have to start doing that.

7. Do you feel like this decision to get into the sprinkler fitter trade helped you financially and build goals for yourself personally?
Well I bought a house in my first year. It was a bit of a struggle, but it [the job] starts out pretty good now.

8. What advice would you give to first-year apprentices?
Don’t get discouraged. The older guys can be kind of hard on you your first year, but when you’re in your first year, you can’t just quit. Just don’t get discouraged.

Corey Lachapelle, June 2017


1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I work for Troy Life and Fire, I am based out of Sudbury. I started the trade with Vipond, they are the only two companies in Sudbury for fire protection. I got into the trade after I went to school for Civil Engineering and I was working for a construction company, and I was basically a junior site superintendent, so I went around talking to all the different trades and getting to know all the different building sites that I was going to be working on. That is how I met the site super for Vipond. I didn’t really like being in the office doing what I was doing for engineering, I liked being out in the field. I liked the hands-on aspect a lot more.

2. How did you get into the sprinkler-fitter trade?

I had a friend who was working for Vipond at the time and that is how I knew about sprinklers. After I started working in this trade I ended up really liking it. I like the fact that you are always at different sites all the time, you’re not always confined to one building or one office your whole career. I like that you’re always at different places and you’re always looking at different types of systems, different applications for everything. That is what I find interesting about it. There are so many different things to branch out of in this trade, and the fact that you are saving lives doing this.

3. What would you say to someone considering the sprinkler-fitter apprenticeship?
I would definitely recommend this trade. It is a really good brotherhood to get into, everyone is looking out for you. Everyone wants you to do well. If you are a hard worker and show up on time, they want you to do well. They take the time to teach you things in class or after class. I really like the teachers here, if I have any type of question about a project I have to do, everyone here is really helpful; they want you to succeed.

4. What sort of characteristics would benefit someone coming into this kind of career?

Definitely being physically fit helps. Based on the things we have to do and lift, it helps.

5. What is your goal once this apprenticeship is done?

I want to get into inspection testing and maintenance. I like the fact that you are always troubleshooting systems and you’re always seeing what is wrong and observing what could possibly go wrong in any situation to make sure that the system will operate. This is the part that I like because you’re making sure a certain system will work at the time of a fire.

6. What obstacles have you seen yourself face so far in the program?

So far, the largest obstacle is being attentive at work, knowing why you’re doing certain things, and understanding the problems that could go wrong.

7. Is there anything that, as you entered the program, you found was a bit more of a challenge than you had anticipated?

Getting used to doing the work itself. The lifting and getting all the material from floor to floor, getting to know jobs from start to finish, and more of the aspect of running a job, that was what I wanted to understand. I want to make my apprenticeship as hard as possible when I am working with someone, so that when I am out in the field alone it is a lot easier because I made my apprenticeship harder.

8. Do you have any advice for people who might be a little apprehensive about joining the trade?

Not every person you are going to work with is going to mesh with your personality; they won’t all match. When that happens you just have to deal with it and be respectful and not start any arguments or anything like that. That is really the only obstacle I’ve seen.

  • Teamwork?

Yes, so on bigger sites you will have a bigger group of guys, and they will get together and have meetings and talk about the options they have weighing on their shoulders and which scenarios can be done the safer way.

9. Do you feel that making the decision to go into this trade has been a good decision for you financially?

This has been the best decision of my life. Honestly, I am glad I chose this route versus staying with my engineering. Not even just for the money, [which is great], but the fact that I am in a union, I have a pension, and I have benefits. I am fully protected. Nowadays, it is hard to find any job without a union that has benefits, pension, and you’re building something for the future. I feel like since you’re in a union, everyone is there to help each other out, and everyone wants you to succeed.

10. If you could start from the beginning is there anything you would change?

If I could start from the complete being out of high school, I would have completely avoided my engineering and gotten into this trade right away. Only because I would be three years ahead right now, I would already be licensed, running my own jobs, having my own service vehicle and getting into what I want: inspection testing and maintenance.

11. What advice would you give to a first-year apprentice?

Not everyday is going to be the best day, but you have easy days and you have hard days. You pretty much have to deal with the hard days and take the easy ones as they come. You just have to put the time in, [your attitude has to be right], and you have to be interested in it.

Tim Wright, April 2017

Tim Wright, Fourth-year Sprinkler Fitter Apprentice

After being referred by a fellow tradesperson to a career in sprinkler fitting, family man Tim Wright is learning a lot and becoming a competent fitter for his employer in Kingston, Ontario. Wright is completing his fourth year of a five-year apprenticeship program. As a married father of two young children, Tim is pleased to be working for a company with impeccable flexibility and accommodation for his family. He’s also passionate about providing life-saving services through sprinkler fitting in commercial and residential settings.

Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a fourth-year sprinkler apprentice and I work out of Kingston at Drapeau Automatic Sprinkler Corporation. I’ve been going to school at the trade Union Hall. I’m doing back-to-back [courses], so I’m advanced right now – week four. It’s a good school. We get a lot of hands-on [experience].

How did you get into the sprinkler fitting trade?
I’m a tradesman already; it’s my second trade. I’m a gas fitter. Being in the trades and just meeting other tradesmen, and word of mouth got me into it.

What do you like best about the trade?
The people you work with are good people. It’s a very skilled trade, and it’s a good brotherhood. It’s a good group of guys.

What would you say to somebody considering the trade to convince them to check out sprinkler fitting?

We need life safety. It’s becoming more prevalent nowadays in residential applications and old-age homes, and places like that. It’s growing and a lot more people are needed in the field. It’s a good paying trade with benefits and the Union Hall is a great place.

Do you have a goal once you finish the apprenticeship?
I’d like to specialize in fire pumps. Fire pumps are good because you get to work with larger engines. They’re a little bit more complicated, interesting and more in-depth.

Have you faced any obstacles in the apprenticeship?
The apprenticeship has a lot of obstacles. They put you to the test, which is good. Now we’re a compulsorily trade, and it’s going to be a little bit more difficult for people coming through the school. There’s a little bit more higher training, and there are obstacles, but they’re there to help you get through.

Do you feel like this decision to get into sprinkler fitting has helped you financially and build goals for yourself personally?
Definitely, yeah. It’s helped me and my family out greatly. It has great benefits and is well-paying, and there’s a lot of work.

What advice would you give to first-year apprentices?
You just have to stick through it. It’s a long apprenticeship, but you just have to stick with it and keep going until the end and see it through.

Ronnie Rose, January 2017

Ronnie Rose, Fourth-year Sprinkler Fitter Apprentice

For fourth-year sprinkler fitter apprentice Ronnie Rose, he decided to leave his correctional worker background for the trades. He’s your average and typical guy going through life with and for his family.

A married father of two to an 11-year old son and a 15-year old daughter, Ronnie first got into the trade thanks to his brother-in-law who recommended the trade. Thanks to him, the trades has benefited Ronnie’s future and his family.

How did you get into the sprinkler fitting trade?

My brother-in-law works for the company that I work for now. He’s the one who proposed that I apply for the trade, which is what I did. It took me about a year, so within a year I got an interview and from there, it’s been up and up.

What do you like best about the trade?

Diverse type of work; you’re doing something different all the time. It’s mechanical, I like to work mechanical and it’s interesting.

Where are you currently working?

I work for Classic Fire Protection Inc. located out of North York.

What would you say to somebody considering the trade to convince them to check out sprinkler fitting?

That it is a well-run industry. It’s rewarding, not only in pay and all the packages that you get, it’s satisfaction at the end of the day of going to a project, working on it and seeing the completion of it.

Do you have a goal once you finish the apprenticeship?

Just to continue working in the industry and be as successful as I can in it.

Have you faced any obstacles in the course?

I think being an older apprentice with a family and younger kids, working once every year and coming into school for two months, and just working your schedule around things like that. It’s a bit harder than a younger guy being in the industry, therefore they have a bit more lee-way with things.

Do you feel like this decision to get into sprinkler fitting has helped you financially and build goals for yourself personally?

Its helped financially, its built goals, its helped set up a future for my kids in regards to going to university.

“A skilled trade is one of the better trades to get into, especially when you’re backed with the union, that way you have a set standards that you follow.”

What advice would you give to first-year apprentices?

Know your Math. Math is a big part of our trade, we use it each day, whether it’s adding and subtracting or fractions on a tape measure, to using Math formulas in order to find take-outs for certain lengths of pipes or travel pieces of pipes.

Brandon Smith, November 2016

Brandon Smith, Fourth-year Sprinkler Fitter Apprentice

For fourth-year sprinkler fitter apprentice Brandon Smith, it’s all about moving forward. Originally from Stanstead, Quebec, the 23-year old London, Ontario resident moved to a new city and a new province four years ago. That was also around the same time he started the trade, and now here he is!

How did you get into the sprinkler fitter trade?

It was actually through a friend of my dad, who offered me the opportunity. I decided it would be a good career decision and life choice so here we are.

What do you like best about the trade?

I really enjoy how rewarding it is. It’s not just some job that you would go to from 9 to 5, then you go home at the end of it and that’s all there is to it. It’s challenging, but you have to think, and it keeps you on your toes, but like I said, this career isn’t just a job.

Where are you currently working?

Out of London at Vipond.

What would you say to somebody to considering the trades to convince them to check out sprinkler fitting?

I would tell them how it’s worth it. It might take a little bit for someone to want to consider the trades because it’s not for everyone. It’s a little demanding, but I find that for what you put into it, you get out of it. It’s a good job in that sense. If you have the opportunity, definitely take it.

Do you have a goal once you finish the apprenticeship?

I just want to keep moving forward. Like I said, it opens a lot of doorways. It’s just nice that it gives you a bunch of opportunities that you don’t necessarily have to continue in the trades. There’s a bunch of other ventures you can take as well, so that’s always nice about it.

Have you faced any obstacles in the course?

Everyday there’s some different challenges that you’ve got to face, but that’s just what’s nice about the adversities. You want to overcome it and it just helps you with problem solving, and everyday there’s something different. It’s good in that sense because you adapt.

Do you feel like this decision to get into sprinkler fitting has helped you financially and built goals for yourself personally?

Absolutely! Financially for sure! Being a young guy out of college, it’s always nice having something that can help you be more financially stable and self-reliant.

“As far as setting goals for yourself, it just makes you want to move forward and gets you into adulthood a little bit. It gives you more responsibility.”

Any advice you would give to anyone starting their first year of apprenticeship?

Don’t get discouraged. Some days you’ll find are hard, whether you’ll be coming out of school or have been in a different trade, it’s different. You face things every day, but just stick with it and through time, it all gets easier. It applies to everything. You get used to certain things and you only gain experience as you go. There’s only one way to learn and you’ve got to do it.