EIFS School Pays Off

Don Procter

May 2005

Blair Skinner wanted a job in the EIFS industry so badly that he was willing to work for the right employer for free for a while. But in Greater Toronto where the need for workers skilled in the application of exterior insulation and finish systems is pressing, no one was willing to hire Skinner because he was inexperienced.

"I heard there was a need for good people in the construction industry as a lot of older workers are retiring, so I figured because I am a hard worker and very willing to learn, the EIFS industry could be my opportunity,” Skinner said.

Figure again.

Skinner was persistent in his effort to find work though. He knocked on doors, spoke to site foremen, but was turned down flat every time. Even when he told them he would work for free for a month, there still were no takers.

Mark Bolduc also wanted to work in the EIFS industry, but his experience as a concrete worker was hardly relevant to EIFS work. Employers weren’t prepared to take the time to train either young man. What changed things for the two was an ad in a local Toronto newspaper about EIFS apprenticeship training. The two signed up for the course that started in January and were hired by EIFS contractors by the time they completed the class 10 weeks later.

Bolduc and Skinner were among 22 students in the what may well be the first-ever EIFS apprenticeship class in North America. All of the students had EIFS employers waiting for them when class-time was completed. One of those employers was Rino Morettin, president of Rinmore Plaster Drywall & Stucco Inc., of Richmond Hill, a suburb of Toronto. "This program is fantastic. They (students) come on the site knowing what to do,”says Morettin, who builds about 20 high-end custom homes around Toronto annually.

Other EIFS contractors agree. They shy away from hiring workers "off the street” because training costs can be high and there is no guarantee that the relationship will work out. The apprenticeship program saves them a lot of potential grief, training expenses and bottles of aspirin.

There is no grief for students, either. Tuition is free and the wages are good in the industry, especially once they get their journeyperson papers, which they are eligible for after completing 3,600 hours in the field.

Organized through the Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario, the apprenticeship class is funded by the association’s membership to the tune of $110 (Cdn.) a day per student. But that soon could change. People like Hugh Laird, ISCA’s executive director, are counting on the Ontario government to come forth and recognize the class as a legitimate apprenticeship program, in which case the province would play a major funding role.

There are a lot of good reasons for the government to approve the program. For starters, it gets unemployed youth off the street (and often off government assistance programs) and into self-respecting, well-paying jobs. The starting rate under the union collective agreement is $14.50 (Cdn.) an hour plus benefits, and rises steadily to top out at more than $27 an hour for journeypersons. That sure beats flipping burgers for a living.

Meanwhile, ISCA has purchased four acres of land for its new facility and training center north of its current suburban Toronto location. While details of the project haven’t been finalized, the site will feature considerably more training space for drywall tradespeople, and it will add class space for the EIFS apprenticeship program.

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