Experienced, professional trades people make all the difference when good work needs to be done — especially when it comes to electrical and plumbing work. Meet two masters of their chosen trade:
You may have seen electrician Sandy Ragno and his talented team on the hit show Holmes on Homes but most of the time, good electrical work goes relatively unseen.
Ragno, 51, runs Solo Electric Ltd. in Toronto and has had to use his skills to correct a lion’s share of shoddy, dangerous electrical work. He got into the electrical trade after realizing sitting in a classroom wasn’t his thing.
“My first move was to try university but I didn’t care for it much because I’m a hands-on kind of guy,” Ragno said.
Instead, he did an electrician’s apprenticeship at Humber College in Toronto and started his own business at the age of 22, employing licensed help before he himself had even gotten licensed.
While plenty of young people are entering the field, Ragno says the work isn’t cut out for everyone as being a good electrician is as much about creative problem-solving as it is about technical skills.
“You have to be mechanically inclined — you have to be able to look at things and know how they work to diagnose problems. We can train almost anybody at it but once you get into a little troubleshooting, that’s when minds go blank,” Ragno said.
One of the toughest parts of the trade is the innately dangerous side of working with electricity.
Electricians often put their safety in other people’s hands, trusting that a switch won’t get flipped accidentally while they work, giving them a 600 volt shock.
“One misconception is that (electrical work) is not dangerous. It is a dangerous trade. We see a lot of stuff that’s done that does work but may not be safe and in time can be very dangerous,” Ragno said.
Bill Reid, 60, owns and operates Reid Brothers Plumbing and Heating Ltd. in Vancouver and has built a career doing something he never originally thought he’d do as a job.
He learned to install pipe when he was just 12 but tried various careers after completing a Bachelor of Science degree, including a two-year stint in accounting, before realizing he preferred working with his hands.
Reid completed his plumbing internship with the British Columbia Institute of Technology and co-founded Reid Brothers with his brother in 1976. Since then the company has grown to 31 employees and quotes more than 60 jobs each month, an example of the strength of the plumbing and heating service industry in general.
“From 2002 until today essentially there has been no slowdown in our work. It’s a business that largely just repeats on its own — we don’t have to do a lot of advertising,” Reid said.
All of Reid’s years of experience have taught him that ultimately plumbing and heating is more about the service side of things than just the particulars of pipes and bolts.
“This has always been about the people — we’re in the service industry, we just happen to work in plumbing and heating,” Reid said.
The hardest part of the industry, Reid says, is finding and training good apprentices.
“It takes experience to be a really good plumber so our focus is on training apprentices. We’re constantly hiring and training people because it’s important to us to build towards the future,” Reid said.