Finding an apprenticeship in the trades is hard, says Martina Roncarelli.

“There’s not an online site where you just apply,” she says. “Everything is word of mouth. You have to know somebody, who knows somebody, who thinks that somebody is looking for an apprentice. So the message gets passed down and they might call you, they might not.”

The 21-year-old knew she was good with her hands. So when George Brown sent her an email about their new one-year Construction Trades Techniques program, she signed up.

“It’s the tour of trades,” says Geurt van de Kraats, Chair of Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship at George Brown, and the only program of its kind. “They get to experience, in actuality, eight trades with a lot of hands-on work.”

Typically, a path into the trades involves completing high school, finding a job, which, with a contract between the employer and the ministry, qualifies as a registered apprenticeship.

Roncarelli works for the city as a lifeguard and her friend, Adam Barnes, spent seven years with the ministry of transportation before deciding to get into trades. Out of the 19 students in their class, only one came out of high school.

“We’re trying to give them an overview of the construction industry as a whole so they have a better notion of what they want to do,” says van de Kraats. “A lot of unhappy people get stuck doing something they don’t like because they didn’t know what it was really about.”

Beyond providing them with a better understanding of what’s out there, the program is a point of entry into the world of trades.

“They’re great teachers,” says Roncarelli. “Most of them have a business on the side or still do work. And if you try and get As in all of your classes, all of our teachers told us they’d give us references. That’s an amazing thing to have.”

Roncarelli plans to update her resumé and post it on Her first choice is plumbing then welding and sheet metal. While a certificate in Construction Trades Techniques won’t give her an official advantage, her experience likely will.

“If I was an employer and somebody came and said I’ve taken this program and out of all these trades I want to become a plumber, I’d think this person is going to make money for me right away,” says van de Kraats. “This is not a, ‘Let’s try this job.’ She’s already spent a year doing it.”

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