Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Nana Aburam. I was born in Ghana, West Africa. Most of my upbringing has been in Toronto. I live with my mom, stepdad, and little brother. I was the first person in my family to go to university, so it was an accomplishment. I play a lot of soccer, and right now I’m really into movies and video games. I’m not married and have no kids yet, but maybe later down the road, I will. On a regular day when I’m not working, I’m usually outside with my friends.
How did you get into the sprinkler fitter trade?
When I finished high school and before I went to university, I had a friend who was part of a group called Hammerheads. It is a program that brings youths into the trades. He told me to come join the program, but I was hesitant because I was the first person in my family to go to university, so I wanted to accomplish that first. When I was in my third year, I spoke to him again and ended up going into a three-month program. They took us to different unions so we can get a feel for them and I ended up choosing the sprinkler fitter trade. It is a really productive program because it gives you a lot of opportunities and it only requires a little bit of your time.
What do you like best about the trade?
My favourite part is the continuous learning. It is something that stuck out for me. You don’t learn one thing and do it every day. Each day is something new, a challenge, and you get to try different things. The people I worked with gave me the opportunity to learn. This job has a really important purpose – you are actually protecting a lot of lives. When I was younger, one of my friend’s house burned down. It is very personal and something I want to help with.
Where are you currently working?
I currently work for Automated Fire. It is based in Mississauga. I started working with them and they gave me a lot of opportunities to learn – it was actually hands-on, which gives you the experience you need. I have a close relationship with the people I work with, especially with my foreman Rob. We talk about the trade and he gives me advice on how to act on the job site and what to watch out for. It is a very warm and family-like company.
What would you say to somebody considering working in the trade to convince them to check out sprinkler fitting?
It changed my life. If you are not directly in the field, you may not be aware of it, but once you are in it, you realize the importance of what you are doing for the community. My advice is if you have the opportunity, take a look into it. It changes your life. You meet different types of people, gain the ability to learn independently and as a group, and learn how to problem solve because each day you face different challenges.
Do you have a goal once you finish the apprenticeship?
I appreciate learning, and this trade is something that you never stop learning from. My objective is to learn as much as I can. I also want to become a fire marshal, and I thought this would be a good stepping stone. After I am done, I will take night school at Seneca to advance my education. In terms of this trade, I want to pick up as much information as I can and reach the highest level of workmanship I can get to. There is always a different system coming out, and I want to be proficient in anything that comes out.
Have you faced any obstacles in the course?
In this course, math is an obstacle I face. I always struggled with it, even in high school. But the teachers here do a really good job of breaking it down for you. They are always there after school if you need help, or you can send them an email. I feel that their teaching type is for everybody because they can show you and help you work through it. For some people, that’s what they need – especially me. Once I get it, it is straightforward. The teaching quality is better than high school! Here, the teachers make sure you understand because math is a big part of our trade. They want everybody to succeed.
In the trade overall, I was someone that had to fully understand what I was doing before I started doing it. But when you start working, you are thrown into the job and have to learn as you go. Luckily for me, I was placed with a good fitter, Rob, who was patient with me and made sure I understood what I was doing and the reason why I was doing it. When I started school, I had good knowledge. I felt that it was good to have him on my side. You also have to be aware while onsite and focus on what you are doing. It was a different shift from being in university and sitting in a class. This is my first time doing anything trade-related, so it was a different environment for me; but I felt comfortable throughout the Hammerhead program, and now I am confident working by myself.
Do you feel like this decision to get into sprinkler fitting has helped you financially and build goals for yourself personally?
Massively. I was in debt before getting into this trade, but four months ago I paid off my OSAP. It helps you financially, but the people at Hammerhead also help you with financial planning. You get a lot of money, and if you do not manage it well, it is easy to blow it away. They set me up in a way that would help me accomplish my future goals. There are ways to be productive citizens – I think this helped set me up on a straight path. You earn your money legally, and you don’t have to look back.
What advice would you give to first-year apprentices?
Be willing to do things that are out of the ordinary for you and be flexible because you are put into different environments. None of your foremen are going to let you do something that is not safe. Also, be on time! Not just showing up, but mentally as well. It’s one thing to be at work, but be there mentally to learn, because there is something new every day. The more you apply the things you learned to your fitter performance, the more freedom you get. From there you get job stability.
Learn about money management – go to the bank and get a financial planner. If you do not know how to successfully plan what you are spending and saving, you’ll throw money away. Take care of yourself, take care of your family financially for the years ahead and have goals. It is important to have goals in the trade – if you want to own your own company, be a fitter, or be a foreman – you have to plan ahead and focus on what you want to accomplish.
Personally, this has been a life-changing experience for me. Coming out of high school I didn’t know where to go career-wise, but coming here has kept me on a straight path and given me something to look forward to in the future. If you get involved and want to learn, it is very satisfying. I have never had a day in my life where I woke up and did not want to go to work – I always wake up happy to go to work.