Mentorship Success Stories – Giving Back
Troy & Fidel, Painters, IUPAT Local 138
When Troy met Fidel as an Apprentice painter 26 years ago, he had only been working about two weeks and was still learning a great deal about his trade. Fidel naturally stepped in as a mentor, and the two developed what would become a lifelong rapport.
“Right off the hop, I remember that we had a connection,” says Troy of the first time that he met Fidel on site. “I didn’t want to disappoint him.” Fidel remembers Troy being conscientious right from the beginning. “From day one, Troy wanted to do well,” Fidel says of his protégé. “That’s what makes him different than most other kids.”
Troy was instantly inspired by Fidel’s respect for his craft and his commitment to preparedness. “He’s a master tradesperson,” says Troy. “And he’s the only person I know that I would give that title to. I consider myself to be very well rounded, but I still don’t specialize in some of the things he does.”
For his part, Fidel mostly dismisses the praise, humble and happy just to have done the work. Fidel has now been retired for nearly fifteen years. “I can’t believe the credit I’m being given!” he laughs.
Now, nearly thirty years into his trade, Troy has become the mentor himself. “I’ve always admired Fidel for being a working Foreman,” he explains. “He was never out there just pointing fingers. Now, when push comes to shove, I’m out there teaching and working like he was.”
“Fidel was better than me, but I’m catching up to him now because I understand the mark of a good teacher,” Troy goes on. “Fidel has a world of patience. If he sees you have some potential, he’ll let you fail once, twice or three times to let you understand the concept.”
In fact, Fidel was so influential over Troy’s life that Troy named his youngest son Walker Fidel as a mark of respect. Mentoring and parenting aren’t so different, Troy thinks. “I’ve got four kids, and Apprentices can be similar,” he explains. “Sometimes they come from a troubled past or they’ve just been spinning their wheels. All of sudden, you spend six months or a year with them and they start to understand a full time job, and you’re explaining more to them than just working in the field. You’re teaching them saving money and planning for the future and what relationships are about.
“Then two years go by, and these guys are understanding a work week and being responsible and showing up on time and having a good attitude. They start to grab hold. When they’re a year out from becoming a Journeyman, you really see that development. It gets you excited, because you’ve taken someone that had very few opportunities and given them one that lasts a lifetime,” Troy says.
“That’s what Fidel and I have. He took me under his wing and showed me the way.”
Jon & Shawna, Instrumentation Technicians, UA Local 213
Shawna Cassidy joined Jon Davis’ work site as an instrument tech Apprentice in 2013, hired to work on a turnaround, which is a type of contract position. “At first I was so timid, even with the equipment and the tools,” she remembers.
She quickly realized that Jon Davis was the “guru” of the group, and gravitated towards him for guidance. “Our job has a lot of troubleshooting with it, and Jon was definitely one of the guys willing to help.”
Jon had gone through formal mentorship training as part of a workforce development program, and naturally fell into a leadership role on his work site. “It was something I took to quite readily,” Jon explains. “My father was a tradesperson, so it feels like the right thing to do, to teach the next generation.”
Jon remembers that when he was growing up, a career in the trades was never brought up in school. “I’m 35 now, but when I was in high school, there was only a focus on academia. It just wasn’t a fit for my lifestyle. Working with my hands, making repairs, that’s what’s satisfying. For people with an aptitude for that, it’s about quality of life.” Shawna, as part of the next generation of tradespeople, agrees with Jon: “This job, it’s challenging. It’s interesting. And it’s never the same.”
Nine months ago, Shawna graduated from Apprentice to Journeyman, which meant moving from Jon’s team of process analyzers over to the instrumentation crew. “I had mixed feelings about her switch,” says Jon. “She brought a lot to the table, was great on our crew. But I recognized that it was an important step in her career.” Jon, meanwhile, is also in a period of transition as his role becomes more administrative. “On a day to day basis, Shawna and I aren’t on the same jobs anymore,” Jon explains.
The mentorship that Jon provided has proved invaluable during this new phase. He had explained to Shawna that even as a Journeyman, confidence takes time. “I remember Jon told me once that even he didn’t feel comfortable right away. It takes a couple years.” Still, Shawna has lost most of the timidity she had as an Apprentice. “I’m getting closer to feeling comfortable enough to act as a mentor myself,” she says. “Just knowing that I’m getting to a point where I don’t need to ask anyone. I can do the problem solving on my own.”
Jon, meanwhile, still takes the time he can to act as a mentor when he can. “I’m starting to feel a little bit removed from the shop environment,” he says, “but I still try to make myself available to all the Apprentices. If I feel like there’s things I can teach, I will.”
The construction industry is expected to lose hundreds of thousands of skilled tradespeople to retirement over the next decade, creating a major need for rapid skills development.
The act of mentorship has long been recognized as an effective means of knowledge transfer that would benefit the industry. Mentors not only pass on their knowledge and experience but are also responsible for planning and guiding the learning process for apprentices.
Canada’s Building Trades Mentorship Alliance (CBTMA) aims to deliver effective, innovative and inclusive mentorship strategies and education training options to Canada’s Building Trades Unions’ affiliated members, their signatory contractors and other potential clients.
Canada’s Building Trades Mentorship Alliance is a collaborative initiative of Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU) and their Mentorship Alliance partners:
NB-MAP provides customized workforce services, education and tools to employers and union locals across Canada, enabling
the development of an in-house Learning Culture. We assist our clients in managing this organizational transformation, using education to enable this cultural change.
NB-MAP’s solution is customized to each trades employer we work with; our curriculum adapts to the needs of our learners, and we engage all employees at all levels. NB-MAP gives journeypersons the tools to be great teachers, role models and coaches to apprentices in the workplace.
For more information, check out their website at nb-map.ca.