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Three young trades people awarded scholarship
Association building next generation of workers

Simon Whitehouse
Northern News Services
Thursday, October 22, 2015

Two Yellowknifers and one Cambridge Bay resident received the second of the only scholarships offered by the Northwest Territories and Nunavut Construction Association this week.

NNSL photo/graphic

The NT and NU Construction Association handed out three scholarship awards this week to student apprentices in the skilled trades. From left are Dave Brothers, vice-president of Northern Operations with Clark Builders, recipient Levi Jones, centre, and Heidi McGurk, senior project manager at Stantec. - Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo 

The NNCA Apprenticeship Scholarship awarded three $1,500 checks for young people pursuing a career in trades. The fund was set up in 2014 to mark the 50th anniversary of NWT Apprenticeship program and money comes exclusively from 160-members of the association.

Recipients this year went to the only three that applied and they Levi Jones, a 20-year-old apprentice carpenter apprentice from Yellowknife who is attending Aurora College in Fort Smith for carpentry; Jared Bilenki, 31, a welder apprentice with Next Stream, who is attending the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology; and Axel Wilcox, 25, a plummer and gas fitter apprentice with Jago Services in Cambridge Bay. He is doing his training through SAIT and will be returning to the school in southern Alberta in February to finish the eight week course.

"All three candidates were really enthused about their profession and working in the construction industry and it certainly came across in their application," said Louise Elder, executive director NT and NU Construction Association. "I was the one that contacted them to let them know they were awarded and even then the interaction we had, you could tell that they love their work."

Jones, as the youngest of the three, said money will help alleviate overall costs that he faces while studying.

"The scholarship means a lot and it makes going to school easier," said Jones, who is working on a retrofitting project in the city with Clark Builders. "I'd like to say thank you and I appreciate it,."

Bilenki said because of the costs of living in the north and raising a family, any time there is available money like this scholarship, it makes a difference. Eventually he wants to be a welder because there seem to be so few in the north, he added.

"It is very beneficial, especially for those in family situations like myself," he said. "I have a child and my wife is pregnant and due in February when I will be in school for journeyman and red seal for welding. The money comes in handy for rent or food."

Elder said the scholarship fund has a small window of opportunity for applicants as it opens at the end of August and runs to the end of September. She said it has a number of benefits for the association, including to provide an incentive to students who may be interested in the trades. Right now, she says young people may not be fully aware of the opportunities available by entering a whole array of trades and skills work. Membership in her association range from companies and range from general contractors to consultants to engineers to manufacturers to transportation legislators.

As with northern students there can be cost implications of going to southern institutions, as well. When Wilcox travels to Calgary in February, he will take a young daughter and a girlfriend with him.

"It is going to be helpful in the long-run for having my family come with me," Wilcox said.

The broader aim is to use incentive to build capacity for workers as Elder says there will be a work shortage over the next five to 10 years due to people retiring.

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