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New boilermaker pre-apprentices set to help meet industry demand

Mackenzie Rusaw didn’t enjoy being stuck in an office all day, so she decided to try her hand at becoming a boilermaker.

The office administrator and former bartender is now one of 20 students enrolled in a new three-week boilermaker pre-apprenticeship program at Durham College’s Whitby Campus.

The first class of the new boilermaker pre-apprentice program pose with industry leaders at Durham College's Whitby Campus.
The first class of the new boilermaker pre-apprentice program pose with industry leaders at Durham College's Whitby Campus.

Boilermakers are essential to installing, repairing and maintaining boiler systems, which produce high-pressure steam – a critical component of electricity generation in nuclear power plants.

“I love to work with my hands and want to travel and move around,” said Rusaw, who has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ontario Tech University, formerly the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. “This program will hopefully help me one day work for OPG or in the oil fields in Alberta.”

Developed by Durham College, OPG and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB), the introductory program will train and groom students to enter boilermaker apprenticeships to help meet the booming demand for skilled trades and professionals in the energy industry.

During the program’s launch day on April 29, the first class of students were all smiles as they listened to instructor John Stoneham, a veteran steamfitter, give a lesson on construction safety.

“These students will be able to take these lessons with them across the energy industry,” Stoneham said.

Four additional cohorts of students are scheduled throughout the summer, with 100 new pre-apprentices in total expected to be ready in 2019. This will help ensure enough skilled professionals are available to execute projects like the Darlington Refurbishment and other upcoming industry work.

Students in the new three-week boilermaker pre-apprentice program pose for a photo in the training area at Durham College's Whitby Campus.
Students in the new three-week boilermaker pre-apprentice program pose for a photo in the training area at Durham College's Whitby Campus.

Through practical training and classroom instruction, students will become boilermaker apprentices upon completion of the program, and members of the IBB. Students will then be referred for work at OPG sites, where they will train with senior journey persons and learn their craft in the nuclear industry.

“The college is pleased to play a role in helping to develop the next generation of boilermakers,” said Tara Brodie, Director of Corporate Training Services at Durham College. “This new approach to apprenticeship training comes at a time when there is incredibly high demand in the industry for skilled professionals with applicable knowledge and hands-on experience.”

Since 2005, OPG has invested $15 million in educational partnership programs with Durham College and Ontario Tech University to increase the pool of skilled and qualified graduates as the nuclear industry enters into an era of a skilled trades supply gap.