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April 3, 2017 1:39 PM

Pre-apprenticeship program leads to career success

Conestoga offered its first Truck and Coach Pre-Apprenticeship program in 2007 at the Guelph campus. Jeff May was among the first cohort of students to complete the program and now credits Conestoga for helping redirect his life.

Without any focus as a teen, May said he struggled in high school and was eventually asked to leave without graduating. At 25, he suffered from serious health problems and it was at this point he knew he needed to make a change in his life.

On the advice of his family, he made it to the very last information session for the college’s Truck and Coach Pre-Apprenticeship program. “I decided to go and see what the program was all about,” said May. “My dad was a truck driver and I took shop classes in high school so the industry was familiar to me. I found out about the information session just hours before it was to begin.”

He met Brenda Gilmore, who was responsible for the program at the time, and was selected as one of the 24 class participants.

"The pre-apprenticeship program was important to the region then and it still is,” said Gilmore, Trades and Apprenticeship program manager. “Many companies are facing a critical shortage of truck and coach technicians so fast-tracking candidates through the initial stages of apprenticeship helps address local labour needs."

Funded by the Ontario government, the program launched in February 2007 and is offered tuition-free to qualified candidates. Students receive 23 weeks of in-class instruction, eight weeks of practical on-the-job experience and gain skills in communications, computer literacy, safety procedures, welding, basic electricity and motive power systems, such as brakes, fluid power, electrical, fuel, engines and drive trains.

May said that he had some difficulty with the courses, but took the program seriously and applied himself. Without completing high school he also had the added responsibility of writing his GED which meant additional homework and time at school. He obtained a job working weekends at a local trucking company, but still managed to pass his courses and the GED. He went on to complete his work placement at the same company and was registered as an apprentice.

May continued his apprenticeship with a few different companies, completed all levels of trade school at Conestoga and successfully wrote his certificate of qualification in August 2010. Since becoming a licensed technician, he has worked his way up the ranks at another local company, becoming a foreman, and in late 2013 he moved into a sales position.

“Jeff has done well with his career, but we’ve also learned that he is now married with a family,” said Gilmore. “This is a wonderful example of how life changing a pre-apprenticeship program can be for someone. We are fortunate to witness success stories like this every year and we look forward to working with more students.”

Conestoga is a provincial leader in apprenticeship training, and provides pathways to success through pre-apprenticeship and foundational programs in a variety of trades areas for students to develop their skills and knowledge.

The School of Trades & Apprenticeship delivers programs through campuses and training centres in Kitchener, Cambridge, Waterloo, Guelph and Ingersoll.

For more information, visit the Trades & Apprenticeship website

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