Millwright apprentice’s career shift began with OPG’s ION program
Sami Jewer spent about five years in the film industry, helping to coordinate music videos and commercials, when she decided it was time for something completely different.
After learning about OPG and the skilled trades through her boyfriend and his family, Jewer came across OPG’s Indigenous Opportunities Network (ION) program, which recruits job-ready individuals and connects them to skilled trades, project management, and administrative jobs within the energy sector.
Before long, she was enrolled with seven other Indigenous candidates in a new six-week Introduction to Millwrighting training program created by the Millwright Regional Council of Ontario and ION. After graduating in the fall of 2021, she immediately started working at OPG’s Darlington Nuclear Generating Station as a millwright apprentice with contractor E.S. Fox.
“This has been a complete change for me, but it’s all for the best,” said Jewer, who is Ojibway and hails from the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation near Cape Croker. “I jumped on the millwright opportunity as my boyfriend comes from a family of millwrights, and I liked the stability of the trade and working in a very safe environment like Darlington.”
Highly trained millwrights install, maintain, diagnose and repair various industrial and mechanical equipment – from pumps and conveyors to the steam turbines that produce electricity at OPG’s nuclear stations.
It is a trade currently in high demand, particularly with the ongoing Darlington Refurbishment project and other refurbishment projects underway around the energy industry.
As a first-year millwright, Jewer is now learning a great deal from other apprentices and journeymen, getting hands-on experience through hoisting and rigging, and precision measuring.
Through her role at E.S. Fox, she is supporting the Darlington Refurbishment project and helping to construct the transfer system for the future production of important medical isotopes at the station, which include Cobalt-60 and Molybdenum-99.
“I’m trying to get as many hours as I can for my apprenticeship, and I’m learning a little bit of everything on the job,” she said. “I love the nuclear side of things. A lot of millwrights find work in car plants or cement plants, but I would love to stay in nuclear. I am eager to complete my four-year apprenticeship here, learn as much as I can along the way, and become a well-versed millwright and nuclear energy worker.”
Jewer credits the specialized millwright training course for helping her get up and running so quickly in her new career, and she’s happy to see her fellow grads also finding success in the industry.
“It really prepared us for what we were getting into.”
Having gone to Durham College for digital photography and advanced filmmaking for her previous career, Jewer still loves to do her own photography and videography in her spare time to feed her creative desires.
But she has no regrets about making the move to her new career in millwrighting, and she encourages others pondering a jump into the skilled trades.
“It can definitely be scary starting something new, and changing your entire life and career plan. But it’s nice to get out there, learn something new, try it out, and see if it’s for you. I’m very happy for taking that jump. It’s been a great career move for me.”
Since launching in September 2018, OPG’s ION program has helped place 74 Indigenous workers in various roles at OPG and across the energy sector. OPG continues to work with Kagita Mikam Aboriginal Employment and Training, based in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, to help identify and assess recruits for ION.
ION is helping to support the goals outlined in OPG’s Reconciliation Action Plan, which commits to increasing the representation of Indigenous employees across the company and growing the economic impact for Indigenous communities and businesses to $1 billion over the next 10 years.