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Restoration company building up job skills of marginalized youth - CTV News



Joanne Schnurr, CTV Ottawa 
Published Friday, May 18, 2018 5:06PM EDT 
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2018 6:51PM EDT

A restoration company, facing a skilled labor shortage, has come up with a unique way to find workers. It's teamed up with Ottawa Community Housing to train young people to work in the trades. For a lot of young people in community housing, there is little hope they will find a way out of poverty. But this could be the answer and a solution to a trades’ shortage at the same time. Brook Restoration has built a business on fixing buildings but this is a story about fixing people; young people from communities where judgment is sometimes high and expectations sometimes low. 

20-year-old Ofa Gasesepe is the only girl in the group. 

“I don’t notice it too much,” she says, “There are little moments during the day when the toilet seat is always up or at the beginning when I got offered a pink helmet which is insane!”

She's from Ledbury Banff in the south end of Ottawa and is anxious to move on.

“For all of us, our futures, this is a chance for us,” she says, “for something better for us and for our families.”

The idea for this 10-week course came about just a few months ago. Brook Restoration, which is headquartered in Toronto but has offices in Hamilton and here in Ottawa, had a need to find skilled laborers and Ottawa Community Housing had a need to help its youth.

Sylvie Manser is with Banff Avenue Community House,”We get youth that are marginalized. This is an opportunity to break that cycle and get out there and contribute.”

18-year-old Pendo Amidedieu lives in Russell Heights, “It is a good opportunity for young people to discover how the outside world works, how real work is and to work with other people in team.”

The course offers the students interview techniques and various businesses help sponsor it, teaching the kids safety on the job.  They are given two weeks of classroom training and hands-on instruction with masonry, demolition and working with heights before they are placed on a job site for eight weeks.  Brook Restoration supplies them with hard hats, boots and the tools they will need on the job.  The CEO of the company, Geoff Grist, calls it an investment.

“I don't look at it at short term,” Grist says, “I look at it in the long term.  We need to grow skilled people in the industry and the way we're doing it is training them in house.”

Grist says he hopes to hire at least 4 of the young folks attending the course.  20-year-old Sydney Ventura is already on board with that idea.

“I plan on making this a career,” Ventura says, “and eventually going up to supervision.”

The company already has plans for another 10 week course and is hoping to encourage other companies to open its doors to these young people as well.

Mike Sheehan