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Apprentice Spotlight

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.