ISCA Opens New Center

Don Procter

December 2005

It looks like the Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario’s new 45,000 square foot center in the Toronto suburb of Vaughan will open on time next month. That is great news to association staff and students putting up with the cramped quarters at the present facility.

The $5 million new building, a design-build project by Belrock Construction Ltd., is about twice the size of the old center. It will feature 60 more classroom seats for drywall applicators and finishers and also accommodate students in ISCA’s brand new EIFS apprenticeship program.

Riding on the success of last year’s pilot EIFS apprenticeship course in which ISCA trained 22 students in application techniques, the association plans to use its new center to train another 20 or so starting in January. Billed as the first-ever in Canada and possibly all of North America, the EIFS apprenticeship program covers practical and theoretical aspects of application in 10 weeks of class time. Students must then complete 3,600 hours in the field to qualify for journeyperson papers.

All 22 students who graduated last spring landed jobs right away. That is no surprise. The shortage of EIFS applicators in the Greater Toronto Area has been unrelenting, so contractors were quick to nab the 22, says Hugh Laird, executive director of ISCA.

Lido Wall Systems picked up four apprentices graduating from the 10-week course in the spring. Lido’s vice president, Oscar Chiarotto, says the company has been so pleased with the students’ work that it has since hired another four, all of whom came aboard as the result of lay-offs from other contractors with projects winding down.

None of the eight are pushing brooms or doing other menial work on site. In fact, he comments, the apprentices are working "pretty close” to the production speed and skill of experienced crews. The projects include a pair of high-rises and several lowrise residential projects in Greater Toronto Area.

Chiarotto agrees with other contractors that the EIFS apprenticeship program has been long overdue. The scarcity of qualified applicators has left contractors looking overseas for experienced help or on the streets of Toronto for anyone with some experience.

"The problem is when you take someone off the street, it takes quite a long time to train them. These guys coming out of the school are knowledgeable the first day,” he says.

Another happy contractor is Rino Morettin, president of Rinmore Plaster Drywall & Stucco Inc., of Richmond Hill, a suburb of Toronto. He says from the outset in the spring the two apprentices he hired knew what to do on site. Rinmore builds about 20 high-end custom homes around Toronto annually.

Also wearing a smile is Laird, whose lobby efforts to persuade the Ontario government to designate the apprenticeship program with provincial accreditation have finally paid off. Initially, the government didn’t support the pilot program, but possibly after seeing its success, it came around, says Laird.

Being an accredited apprenticeship program means the province will take over 70 percent of the funding. The pilot was funded by the association’s members to the tune of $110 a day per student. Tuition is free.

The success of the apprenticeship program is getting attention in other regions of the province. Laird says this January plans call for the start-up of an EIFS apprenticeship course in Hamilton, 40 miles southwest of Toronto. About a dozen students are expected to go through the 10-week course at the International Union of Painters & Allied Trades hall in Hamilton. An instructor from ISCA’s Toronto office will be supplied.

About the Author
Don Procter is free-lance writer in Ontario, Canada.