There are several reasons why Dan White, a third year apprentice plumber at AU Local 46, chose the skilled trades as his second career.
“I actually started in the Canadian film industry,” said White, who was a guest speaker at the First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) student conference held almost recently. “I’ve worked on a lot of TV shows, feature films and even music videos. I also served in the Canadian Forces, Royal Canadian Artillery. I chose to switch to a skilled trade as a second career because of the possibility of having more personal time, a good salary and a bright future.
“The reason I left the film industry – I loved it, I got to travel the world – but I wanted more time to be with my family,” he added. “As glamorous as the industry is, the hours are very long and I was away all the time. I wanted to spend time with my little one, my son.
The 2020 FNMI-focused student conference was held online in May with the goal of helping students understand the career options available in skilled trades and technology.
The event is typically held in conjunction with the Skills Ontario competition, but took place virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Every day is a new day. I work with my hands and learn things,” White explained. “Basically when you do a trade you get paid to learn, unlike going to college or college. where you pay to learn and once completed there is no guarantee that you will have a job.
“When you do a skilled trade, you have a career, you have a future. My trade is a Red Seal trade and once completed I can work anywhere in Canada.
He spoke about his responsibilities as an apprentice, which he said are to show up fit for work, on time and ready to work, learn and listen.
Being in the trades, you have the opportunity to have financial freedom,
– Dan White
“When you start out as an apprentice you make sure the area is clean, making sure there are proper tools on the carts and of course equipment,” White said. “You will need to be careful, be organized, keep a notepad, and learn. As your learning continues, you will have more responsibilities, more tasks. At first you might not want to do all of this, but this is how you really learn. This is how you become a good companion, because when you know the material, it gives you the ability to understand what you will do later.
One thing he loves about the trades is the flexibility it offers.
“I work 36 hours a week Monday through Thursday which means every weekend I have a long weekend and if I work more than 36 hours I get paid overtime,” White said.
“In the trades, at the end of the day, you close your toolbox and you don’t have to reopen it until the next day. You leave your job at work.
The compensation is also excellent, he said.
“For all of you young people who want to get out of your parents’ house, being in the trades, you have the opportunity to have financial freedom,” he said.
It also gives you time to pursue other passions.
White was able to pursue his love for stand-up comedy when he entered the trades, something he was unable to do by working long hours in the film industry.
“Don’t get me wrong, the trades have become my passion but you still have the option if you want to make music, paint, kickbox, fish or hunt,” he said.
His favorite part of being a plumber is being able to work with water.
“We bring water to hospitals, towns and homes,” he noted. “We bring the essence of life to people. For me that’s pretty awesome, especially as an Aboriginal person.
Her advice to high school students was to take the time to research as many skilled trades as possible.
“I’m not telling you to do a skilled trade, I’m just telling you to think about it,” White said. “I’m not saying don’t go to college or college. I think this is a good thing. Higher education is amazing, but there is no guarantee that you will have a job after graduation.
“When I was in high school my parents really pushed trades on me and I went in my own direction,” White added. “I ended up where I am now, but you have to make this decision for yourself. Spend time on it, it’s your future.
Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.