Cool Tool School shifts gears

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Special to the GTA Construction Report

            Toronto cops and the drywall building trade recently teamed up to offer youth at risk from tough Rexdale neighborhoods a two-day “hands-on” introduction into what it takes to be a drywaller.

            Twenty-two youths in their late teens to early 20s framed and drywalled what is essentially a 4- by 4-foot “doghouse” at the Interior Finishing Systems Training Centre (IFSTC) in Woodbridge, Dec. 12-13, says David Semen, the IFSTC’s industry apprentice liaison and outreach specialist.

            The idea was to help youth showing a strong interest and a knack for the trade what their next step can be. For some, that will be the drywall apprenticeship program.

            The two-day event was hosted under the moniker Cool Tool School, which originated as a basic home repairs program by Toronto Police’s 23 Division for at-risk kids aged 5-11 and their single parents in Rexdale. At the time Toronto cops taught kids basic repairs such as patching drywall holes, replacing door knobs and re-installing busted stairway handrails.

            “What we are offering here is kind of a phase two where older kids from those neighborhoods are given an opportunity to see what the drywall trade is all about,” says Semen.

            Toronto Police Sgt. Kevin Van Schubert and a team of police from 23 Division were on hand to assist IFSTC instructors in the two-day event at the drywall training centre.

            The event included blueprint reading, metal stud framing, drywall installation and taping as well as some fancy plastering methods used by the trade in specialty jobs, says Semen.

            It takes on average four years to reach journeyman status in the drywall trade. That is a ticket to a good-paying job — $80,000 annually isn’t unusual – doing honest hard work, says Hugh Laird, executive director of the Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario (ISCA), which makes up the drywall and associated trades contractor group.

            The seed for Cool Tool School was started by Pastor Allan Bowen of Abundant Life Assembly, who when encountering kids destroying a fence decided to give them tools to put it back together. Bowen, who saw the Toronto Police as the delivery mechanism for the program, continues to play an active role in the program.

            The IFSTC is also working with COSTI and JVS Toronto to help steer kids in the right direction. Both organizations offer educational, social, and employment services to immigrants, Semen says.

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