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June 22, 2006 11:05 AM

Mike Holmes Wows the Crowd at Conestoga College

President Tibbits and Mike Holmes

Convocation held a little surprise this year for students graduating from programs in the Schools of Trades and Apprenticeships, and Engineering and Information Technology.

Donning the traditional gold coloured gown reserved for guest speakers, Mike surprised parents and students who caught a glimpse of Mike's characteristic work boots and brown coveralls as he rose to shake hundreds of hands, pausing to make as many grads as possible feel special. The word heard most on campus from the many who had the opportunity to meet Mike was "gracious.” He really is who he is on his show, Holmes on Homes, and he really is interested in meeting anyone who approaches him.

With hundreds of graduating students, their family and friends gathered together on this warm June day, Mike found the perfect setting to launch his speech from the podium with his trademark "OK - Here's what I'm going to do… First thing I'm going to punch out a hole in the wall over here, and over there," as he motioned to each side of the large gymnasium at Conestoga's Recreation Centre. "Then I'm going to hire some electricians, and get some heavy-duty fans installed, and get the air moving in here…”

But Mike wasn't just visiting Conestoga to give the students and parents a fun speech. Mike Holmes is a very serious man, with a serious plan: The construction industry is crying out for quality trades-people who care about doing a job right the first time, and Mike wants to do something about that. He wants to encourage young people to give serious consideration to the trades as a viable profession.

His speech echoed so much of what Conestoga president John Tibbits has been saying publicly here in our region: we desperately need more qualified people in skilled trades and a very serious shortage is looming. Highly skilled trades' workers, especially in the field of construction, are quickly approaching retirement, and are simply not being replaced quickly enough in our booming economy. So Mike's visit was well timed – he came to Conestoga because he heard about what we are doing to attract young people to skilled trades, and send them on their way to bright, promising careers.

Ingrid Town and Mike Holmes

When asked why Mike chose to come to Conestoga's Convocation – the first convocation he has ever attended – his answer was very clear: "I'm all about doing it right. Conestoga has been number one for eight years in a row, and that really impresses me. Conestoga is all about doing it right. They want to make a Centre of Excellence in Skilled Trades, and that is very impressive.”

As Conestoga President John Tibbits continues to try to get the message across about the value of skilled trades, and the need for businesses and governments to invest in the college so that we can address the shortage of skilled trades and growing youth unemployment rates, having a supporter like Mike Holmes on side is really a coup for the college.

Mike's support will help us leverage new partnerships, and he is even considering coming on board himself to help as an advisor on curriculum in a new Renovations program that is in the works. "It is all about education for me, says Mike. I want to see the kids go to college and learn as much as possible. If we can educate them the right way, teach them why and not how , how becomes easy. I want to make a difference”.

Mike is also interested in making a difference to help the new campus take shape as we fundraise for the $7 million needed to make the new Waterloo Campus a showpiece for skilled trades education in Ontario . Having just launched the new Holmes Foundation, Mike himself is learning about the importance of fund raising to make dreams happen. The Holmes Foundation is a charitable foundation that will support two important goals: It will assist Canadians who need help or resources to get their homes and lives back after botched renovations; and it will support the training of youth in the skilled trades, through apprenticeships, scholarships and bursaries.

"I'm here to make a difference, it means a lot to me to step forward and help well, push the young, to step in the right direction - wanting to learn right, and wanting to make it right and make a difference in the future. Unfortunately, we are lacking a lot of pros out there, I can prove that on the show obviously. I think a lot of them have been taught wrong, by the wrong people. We need a change in the future and if we don't make that change, where are we going to be 20 years from now?”

To find out more about supporting the new Skilled Trades Centre of Excellence at Conestoga's new Waterloo campus, contact Ingrid Town at 519-748-5220 ext. 3490 or itown@conestogac.on.ca

To find out more about The Holmes Foundation, visit www.holmesonhomes.com

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