Indigenous carpenter’s dream leads to the Darlington Refurb
Jenelle LaFonte was headed for a career in accounting until she decided to follow a dream that led to working on OPG’s Darlington Refurbishment, Canada’s largest clean energy project.
“After two years in an accounting program, I realized I would much rather be building my house than doing that,” said LaFonte, a member of Hiawatha First Nation. “So I entered the carpentry program at Fleming.”
During her time at Fleming College, LaFonte completed 60 hours of volunteer service with Habitat for Humanity, building affordable housing across the Peterborough and Kawartha Lakes regions. Noticing her skill in carpentry, the charitable organization hired her on to continue building homes.
More than a year later, Kagita Mikam Aboriginal Employment and Training Agency, a non-profit organization that had supported LaFonte during a semester of her education, notified LaFonte about Indigenous Opportunities in Nuclear (ION) – OPG’s job placement program targeting members of Indigenous communities.
“ION was really responsive to any questions I had,” said LaFonte, now a member of the Carpenters’ Union Local 397. “They were a big help guiding me through the process.”
Having successfully completed the program, LaFonte is now working at Black and McDonald, assembling scaffolding at Darlington Nuclear Generation Station in support of the Darlington Refurbishment.
“Everyone is really welcoming and willing to teach – it’s been a great experience.”
LaFonte will continue her contract on the Darlington Refurbishment then plans to finish her schooling to obtain the rest of her required hours for apprenticeship.
“It’s still my dream to build my own house one day,” she said. “Working here will help make that dream a reality.”