May 14, 2010
FEATURE | General & Trade Contracting
You’re never too old to learn a new trade
At a time when workers in construction — and in the general workforce — are considering retirement, Murray Wicks is embarking on a new career. In August, Wicks who turns 60 this November, received his electrician: construction and maintenance licence.
Receiving a certificate of qualification from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) marked the culmination of an almost 10-year endeavour for the Janick Electric Ltd. employee.
At the age of 50, Wicks decided to become an electrician and was able to secure an apprenticeship with the firm.
At the time he had been working in a somewhat boring job as a machine operator and press feeder in a printing plant. It didn’t take the Toronto resident long to make that career decision.
“I was working nights and was facing an imminent layoff so a steady, more career-oriented trade was attractive.”
At first, he was a bit apprehensive as most apprentices are in their 20s. “But being an apprentice electrician is the same for anyone in any age group and being an older worker is just that.”
Then there were the stringent requirements.
To become a journeyman electrician, apprentices must have 9,000 registered hours of on-the-job training interspersed with three different sessions — basic, intermediate and advanced — of theoretical training, usually at a college of applied arts and technology or another approved training delivery agency.
“A lot of studying is required as you have to get 70 per cent in each subject and on the exam. But I didn’t have any problem with the schooling,” says Wicks, who was one credit short of obtaining an honours bachelor of arts degree from York University when he embarked on the apprenticeship.
“I never got discouraged,” he says, when asked if there were periods of self doubt about completing the program.
Judging by MTCU statistics, Wicks’ situation isn’t totally unique.Of the 11,000 certificates of qualification issued in 2011, approximately six per cent were to people over the age of 50, says senior media spokesperson Gyula Kovacs.
The average age at certification for the period from 2007 to 2011 was 34, he says.
“We’re so proud of him,” says Janick site foreman Ozwald Mullings, who suggests Wicks can be an inspiration for younger apprentices who might be thinking of quitting at some point.
Wicks, however, says his work as an electrician doesn’t define who is.
He has a certificate in woodworking, plays the harp, and eventually intends to obtain the last remaining credit for his university degree.
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