From a young age, Ken Fujimoto knew he wasn’t destined for life in an office.
“I stopped attending high school in grade 11,” he recalls. Instead, Ken enrolled in an online private school while traveling around to support his best friend’s music career. The ambitious young learner taught himself audio engineering, running sound for his friend’s concerts.
Eventually, he found himself organizing more concerts and working directly with venues.
“I worked a lot of different jobs, but never in the trades!” Ken says. “I did basic stuff around the house, but other than that I really didn’t have much exposure other than my grandfather.”
Wanting more stability, Ken eventually decided to pursue a career as an electrician – but getting into the field proved to be all but impossible. “I tried calling people, reaching out to unions and trade schools, even speaking to the government directly,” he explains. “But nobody really takes you seriously without experience.”
When he came across HIEC’s Avenues to Apprenticeship program, Ken knew it was the perfect opportunity to get his foot in the door. He expected to gain a high-level overview of different trades, but instead found himself amazed by the breadth of knowledge offered through the program.
“HIEC could literally take someone off the streets, dress them and teach them, and get them into a trades role,” Ken laughs. “Avenues to Apprenticeship was incredibly well-organized. They had answers to just about every question, and if they didn’t, they knew exactly who to ask.”
Though he’d had his heart set on electrical, Ken says he was flabbergasted by the sheer variety of trades available. In the end, he accepted a placement with a masonry company specializing in historic restoration after completing the program. Now, he spends his days meticulously working on late 1800s and early 1900s Victorian-style homes – an occupation that requires extreme precision.
“It’s like an art,” Ken says. “I don’t just want to lay bricks. I want to build and design.”
Though as a visible minority he worried about discrimination on the job, Ken says his experience has been nothing but positive. His employer is exceptionally supportive, and he relishes the job he does each day.
“I really enjoy what I’m doing. It’s piqued interests I didn’t even know I had,” Ken reflects. “I’ve been able to work my way up from basics like mixing mortar and getting coffee to do more skilled tasks. We all work together and respect one another.”
His time learning on the job in music now serves him well, with Ken asking the right questions to learn exactly what to do as he goes. “It’s a completely different kind of learning,” he explains.
“Hands-on, practical, on the spot. It’s a total misconception that the trades don’t require intelligence. You are constantly thinking critically and adapting.”
When asked if he would recommend Avenues to Apprenticeship to others, Ken’s answer is an enthusiastic yes. “The program itself honestly changed my life. If you are committed and put in the work, you will find it to be very fulfilling.”
Within the next few months, Ken plans to be promoted from labourer to apprentice at his restoration job.
“Participating in Avenues to Apprenticeship is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
While the Avenues to Apprenticeship program is currently closed for applications, ApprenticeSearch.com offers a variety of job-readiness and mentorship opportunities for anyone interested in a career in the skilled trades.
Gateway to the Trades is a five-week employment-readiness program designed to equip participants with training, equipment, knowledge and employer connections needed to succeed in the skilled trades. Participants work through six modules to gain job search skills, upgrade mathematical and financial literacy skills and gain experiential learning opportunities.
Register for Gateway to the Trades here.
Our monthly Women in the Skilled Trades Peer Mentorship Group brings together women working in the skilled trades together through conversation and connection and is an inspiring and empowering group for those looking to start their career in the skilled trades. This group is for anyone who identifies as a woman who is learning/working in the skilled trades sector or thinking about starting a career in the skilled trades.
This group meets monthly on the second Thursday of every month, and you can register for the next event here.