Home reno training skills put to the test

There’s something about the number three that really seems to get the ball rolling.

  • Oct. 27, 2011 7:00 p.m.
REnEW program participant Delaney Elliot (left) and UK Trades worker John McIsaac (centre) make the cuts necessary to complete a renovation of a John Howard Society recovery house.

REnEW program participant Delaney Elliot (left) and UK Trades worker John McIsaac (centre) make the cuts necessary to complete a renovation of a John Howard Society recovery house.

There’s something about the number three that really seems to get the ball rolling.

On one hand, three strikes can be pretty punishing if your luck has run out. On the other, three times can be a charm leading to all kinds of new possibilities.

While the folks involved in the John Howard Society’s new employment program REnEW might be more familiar with counting strikes, their latest effort has seen them build a charming future for many others recovering from addictions.

“This house actually had the equivalent of a two-foot square hole in it when we did the energy testing,” said Ron Brewer, owner of UK Trades and the contractor helping the  REnEW students renovate a Kelowna recovery home.

“With this reno, we’ve made it much more livable, really brightened the place up,” said Brewer. “It was pretty dark in here.”

ReNew, or Residential Energy and Efficiency Works, gives a class of roughly a dozen people the chance to learn new skills and compile the certifications necessary to retrofit buildings with energy upgrades.

It is targeted at those looking to come back into the workforce generally from their own background of addiction, homelessness, or underemployment.

“This reno would be about the equivalent of a $50,000 reno,” explained Brewer, who says the John Howard Society is getting the project free through donated materials and funding from industry backers like FortisBC.

This is the third class and this latest training has helped JHS retrofit and drastically upgrade a recovery house, replacing windows, adding insulation, changing lighting and repainting and upgrading many aesthetic elements as well.

The participants receive fall protection certification, first aid, CPR, construction safety training and workplace hazardous materials information system (WHIMS), as well as the tools necessary to walk onto a job site come graduation.

Those who participate are either unemployed or underemployed with little recent job experience and no employment insurance, many one step removed from a life on the streets.

“The students get breakfast and lunch and their certifications,” said Shelley Cook, executive director of the JHS. The non-profit works in partnership with FortisBC on the program, with financial backing from BC Hydro as well.

Of the two previous classes, 70 per cent of participants are now gainfully employed, though there is a seasonal element to the work, Cook said, and the JHS staff say the success comes partly from careful selection.

“I look for people who are ready to make a change, are interested in construction, and those who other non-profits think might be a good fit,” said Sam Beeson, program co-ordinate responsible for selecting participants.

Some 11 participants and nine employees of UK Trades went to work on this latest project and it went so well UK Trades is expanding as a result.

Brewer is forming a second company, One Step Maintenance, to help the graduates obtain employment after graduation—at least until they’re ready to leave the nest.

For participant William Dyck, it was just the new beginning he needed.

Admitting he was not very interested in construction to start with, he says the program opened a door and a sense of possibility he didn’t have with his Grade 11 education.

“As I’ve been doing it I’m becoming more and more interested,” said Dyck, noting he’ll be starting work for the JHS when he’s done.

jsmith@kelownacapnews.com

 

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