Jim is 25 years old and lives with his partner in a house owned by her parents, which is for sale. (She is also a research participant: Tinkerbell.) He and his partner previously lived with his and her parents. They are expecting their first child. Jim was recruited into a carpentry apprenticeship by a fatherly employer, but switched employers to get more hours and didn’t realize his new employer needed to register with the apprenticeship system, so he is now in danger of discontinuing the apprenticeship. He has only been away from home on two one-month occasions while attending courses related to the apprenticeship. He’s considering becoming a long-distance trucker.
FM: So, we’ll start with a few details about your family – where you were raised, how many in your family, how the family supported itself, that kind of stuff.
I was raised till grade 4 in Riverville, and then we moved out to [a smaller village] where I went to a Lakeville school.
FM: How many kids in the family?
Four. I have two sisters and a twin brother.
FM: The sisters older or younger?
One older and one younger.
FM: And what did your dad do for a living?
He’s the head of maintenance for a big camp in the area, a year-round camp.
FM: And did your mom work outside the home?
Yes. She was a waitress at night and she also did some work at the camp. She was cleaning.
FM: Okay. So start with the first time you moved out of your parents’ home.
Editor's Note: Jim's many moves are numbered.
[#1] This place here is the first time I actually moved out of my parents’ house. I did live with a couple, friends of my parents, in Middletown where I attended carpentry apprenticeship for 2 months.
FM: And when was that?
2007 and 2008.
FM: So you went twice.
FM: Okay, so 5 years ago, which would make you how old?
FM: Okay. So talk about how you made the decision to make that move, to Middletown. To go to apprenticeship.
I went to Middletown to learn more about my trade. To become a carpenter.
FM: How did you decide that that was what you wanted to be, that you wanted to be a carpenter?
It pleased me to build stuff, like houses and decks.
FM: And who introduced you to carpentry? How did you figure out that you liked to do it? … A job? Somebody you knew who worked in that field?
FM: Say some more about that.
He influenced me to do more in that field when we worked together at the camp during the summer, back when I was in high school. And I enjoyed it then so I decided to do the apprenticeship.
FM: High school: Did you enjoy school or did you know that you were going to work as soon as you could get out of school?
I did enjoy school but now I look back and I wish I had of done more in school. I went to work right after school in a lumber store, stocking shelves. Then a contractor came in looking for a laborer and I said I’d work for him. And then after that, that winter, that’s when I went to the apprenticeship. My first year was here … at the pre-apprenticeship program....
FM: That’s good to know. They didn’t offer that program for very long.
No they didn’t. I think the reason why they stopped providing that program in this county was due to the attendance of the class. Most of them never showed because they were told even though they missed half of their classes that they would still pass. I thought that was weird that they would cancel the program, because my class, I attended every day and I noticed that more than ¾ of the class was present. It seemed like the class I was in was more interested in the carpentry trade.
FM: Did the students get paid to attend, or did they have to pay tuition or whatever?
No, since it was a pre-apprenticeship, it was a free course. And we weren’t paid, but we were eligible for the same apprenticeship grant as the regular apprenticeship program. And we were given vouchers for tools and boots. If we wanted boots, it had to be the boots set on the voucher, because there was only one pair of boots we could select. If we wanted a different pair of boots, we would have to pay for it ourselves. And the tools voucher was $50 or something, I can’t remember. But the boots was a lot more.
FM: So did you take advantage of that?
I did. I got the boots and I had them for 4 years. And after those pair wore out, I bought another pair the exact same, but they only lasted a year.
FM: Maybe you were harder on them?
FM: So how do you understand the guys who didn’t bother coming to class, what was that about, do you think?
I think that they were using the course.
FM: For what? What did it get them?
In my opinion, no where. Because if they showed that enthusiasm in the field, as they did in class, then they’d have no chance continuing the trade.
FM: Did you have the sense that maybe they needed to register for the course, even if they didn’t go, in order to be eligible for Ontario Works or something like that?
FM: Let me ask you this. You said somebody said you only have to come to half the classes. Who said that?
I don’t know. I heard that from another student in my class who was told by one of our teachers.
FM: So maybe the guys who didn’t bother coming were just doing what they were expected to do, d’ya think?
The teachers told us our attendance wasn’t required by the course, but it was certainly favourable for us for learning. There was a lot of math involved. And we practiced it all day every day except for shop days.
FM: So there was also an applied part of the course, hands on?
Yes. I think that was the only time that the students who missed their classes might have gone.
FM: Do you think maybe they were intimidated by the classroom stuff? Like maybe they didn’t read very well, didn’t have basic arithmetic skills, so it was hard for them to think they could look other than stupid?
It could have. I wasn’t in that class. My class was present every day.
FM: Was your class younger? Local kids? How was it different than the other class?
It was all local and the age varied. The majority of it was adults from their 30s and up.
FM: So you were the youngster?
One of them. There were probably 5 or 6 out of about 20.
FM: Do you think, looking back, that if you hadn’t started with that course, you would have gone into the apprenticeship?
I don’t know. I may not have. I was influenced to go from my parents and my employer.
FM: Okay, that’s interesting, because your employer would know that if you got your papers, he’d have to pay you more. Do you think that crossed his mind?
No. I think he was hoping I would get my license. He was like another parent or a grandparent, however you want to look at it.
FM: Do you still work with him?
No, he had a shortage of work 2 years ago, so I went looking for more.
FM: But he gave you a good reference?
Yes. But now it’s kicking me in the butt because since I’ve changed employers, I have to register my hours. Because I did an apprenticeship, I have to attain enough hours in order to write the CFQ (Certificate of Qualifications).
FM: And you’re not getting enough hours with this new boss?
Well, I have enough hours since I started working for him. I started 2 years ago. But what I didn’t realize is that I had to register my employment with my new employer through the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
FM: So you have the hours but they don’t count because you didn’t register that you were working for him, not your old boss?
FM: Bummer!!! How might you have found that out earlier? Or how did you finally find out?
I found out when I decided that I was going to write my CFQ. I drove down to Middletown to make an appointment to write but was told that I didn’t have enough hours and told that I had to register my employment with my new employer.
FM: Did you new employer know this? Had he ever had an apprentice before?
No, he’s never had an apprentice and he’s never been registered with the Ministry of Training, and now since I want to register my hours, I’m trying to get him registered with the Ministry, in order for my hours to count.
FM: Is he resisting that at all? Giving you a hard time?
It seems like he’s trying to not let me register my hours because I got a letter from the Ministry of Training saying they’d left a message on his answering machine and he’s never gotten back to them.
FM: Does it cost him anything to do that?
I’m not sure. I wouldn’t imagine so.
FM: Maybe just extra paper work?
Could be. He’s about 58 now and he’s probably looking at retiring soon anyways.
FM: So if he doesn’t do business with the Ministry of Training, are you screwed? Do you lose those hours?
FM: Looking back, is there any way you could have found this out earlier? Like maybe your old boss – he must have known how the system worked. Or the people at the Employment place? Or [the college]? It just seems somebody should have been keeping their eye on this.
There is an employment and training consultant that should have been making regular appointments with me and my employer, but I guess she’s so busy that she forgot about me. I don’t know. But when I left the old boss I never even clued in to let my employment and training consultant know that I had changed employers.
FM: Where does this consultant hang her hat? Where is she located?
She’s located in Middletown.
FM: Does she ever come up here?
FM: How often?
That I don’t know.
FM: So they expect you to take the initiative to contact them, not the other way around?
I guess they must!
FM: Have you heard of anyone else having this same kind of problem with not quite knowing what the rules are?
No, but I’m sure that there are others out there.
FM: Because the bosses have also to know the rules, as well as the apprentices, but who teaches them? Whose job is it to – let me ask this: do you think there is any assistance available to an apprentice to help him find an employer or to explain to employers what they need to do in order for the apprenticeship system to work?
I would imagine it would be the training consultant.
FM: That would make sense. Have you ever known her to call a meeting of construction employers or attend the Home Builders Association or anything like that?
FM: Well, this is an education for me. And I’m shocked because there’s so much talk these days about how we as a country, or as a county, need qualified trades people, and about making apprenticeship more available and a more attractive option to young people. And it sounds like the machinery to make this happen might not be there. Or maybe not working well in the rural areas? Think so?
FM: So what are you going to do if your employer either doesn’t register or retires before you get your hours or whatever?
Get another job. Start fresh. New trade. Something. Because this summer work has been very slow and I haven’t worked a winter. Every winter I’ve been on unemployment insurance since I started carpentry. So I’ve been thinking of getting my trucking license. Trucking is a fantasy that I would like to see filled.
FM: Are we talking big --
Cross country, 18-wheeler trucking.
FM: Okay. I understand that is also a field that has more jobs than people filling them. I heard not so long ago that they were bringing in people from Eastern Europe, Poland and Russia, to train. What would you need to do to get a trucking license?
Well, I need to go to the college and possibly apply for, uh, if they have an apprenticeship or not for it, because there is a course provided through [the college in Middletown]. Well, there’s a lot of schools or training facilities for trucking not too far away from here.
FM: Do they cost money?
Pretty sure they do. That’s why I was hoping to find something at the Job Connect office in Lakeville.
FM: Have you tried them yet?
No, I’ve been pretty busy. My hours are committed to what I’m doing, to my work. Even though I’ve only been putting part-time work in.
FM: So it’s a full time commitment even though the hours are part time?
FM: Why is that?
Because I don’t know what’s going to happen with my current employer. He does not inform me where we’re going the next day. He tells me the morning of.
FM: Do you get paid as soon as you show up to go to wherever the work is that day, or do you start getting paid when you get to the actual job?
I start when I’m at the job.
FM: So transportation time is on your penny.
FM: Okay. So let me just review, then, your history. You graduated from high school, lived at home, went to [a college-based] pre-apprenticeship, went to Middletown for a 2-month classroom course during which time you lived with friends of your family, then back to your employer that you’d worked with since high school.
No, I worked the summer after high school at the lumber store, and then after Thanksgiving I started with that employer.
FM: And that was the employer who found you at the [lumber store]
FM: Okay, and then to continue the story, worked for him, [went to college], got your hours, went to Middletown for 2 months of classroom work, then back to the old employer, then back to Middletown again for classroom work, and then he didn’t…
No, we went back to work and then the following year I left him for more hours with my current employer.
FM: And you’ve been with him 2 years. Working summers only and part-time?
Well, it’s full time but this summer it’s only been part time hours. Or seems like part time hours. This week I only put in 24 hours. I’ve only put 3 or 4 full-hour weeks in this summer.
FM: Is it your sense that the business is slow all over, or is this just your boss?
All over, I’m hearing from many contractors that it’s been slow and only a few that it’s busy for them.
FM: Okay. Will you talk a little bit about how you experienced going to Middletown? What was it like for you to be living away from home?
It was fun. The people I stayed with were very nice, fun to be with. They – you could tell they were married for awhile, just the way they talked to each other, just the little arguments were funny for me. We were close. We played cards. We drank together, ate together and I loved it. It was like I was living away from home and it was something I really enjoyed.
FM: Did you find it intimidating at all to be in a big school, a big city, relative to here?
Maybe a little. I don’t like the traffic. There’s too many people on the road. But I never complained to anybody that it was a problem for me.
FM: Would you ever consider moving to a big city? Or even a city the size of Middletown?
I would consider it but it would be more or less on the outskirts of town. I’m a rural kind of guy.
FM: But the life of a trucker who’s on the road with lots of traffic all the time, different place every night, away from home for days at a time, [does] that sound like a fit for you?
I think so. I like the highway driving the best because mostly I don’t see many people. I try to stay away from rush hour.
FM: Okay…let’s go back to the story about where you lived because at some point you got together with your partner…talk a bit about that.
Well, when I was living with the couple in Middletown I was 20 and my brother always brought a girl home to see mom and dad and I never, I never brought one home. So I felt like I needed some companionship and I remembered seeing my partner at a local baseball game and was too shy or scared however you look at it, to ask her out. So I waited until, I guess, I was … lonely. And found her on Facebook. Then we got together at her parents’. This was our first meeting for an Easter dinner,
FM: So she took you home to her parents instead of you taking her home to your parents, like your brother did…
Yes. That was our first date. Our first date was at her parents’ house.
FM: Wooo. Where from there?
Well, we, like any young couple, we went out 3 or 4 times a week and whenever I dropped her off at home, there was always the long time spent sitting in the car.
FM: That’s privacy, [cottage county] style. Or youth style.
We never did anything. We just made out.
FM: And when did you two get together, move in together?
Well, my partner has depression issues and when she was attending college, it got bad enough that she couldn’t go to class. And her mother expected more from her and to go to class. Which made her even more depressed, so she decided to move in with me at my parents’ house. We lived there for 3 years and now we’re living in her parents’ rental house.
FM: So have you been paying rent all these years, or room or board or ...
Yeah, my dad asked for $300 room and board, that’s all he asked for, and chores. I didn’t have a problem with it, so. And the cooking was really good so I stayed as long as I could.
FM: What brought about the move from your parents’ house to here?
I – both my partner and I decided we needed to move out. It was at the point of somebody wringing somebody’s neck. There was a lot of tension. Mostly between my mother and my partner.
FM: Who lived in that house – you, your partner, your parents, any of your siblings?
Yes, all of them but not at the same time. One time it was my brother and his girlfriend as well as me and my girlfriend. Then he moved out and my older sister moved back in. But we hardly saw her because she was at her boyfriend’s. Then when she moved out, my younger sister moved back home with her daughter, her baby girl. She moved out again and my brother moved back in with a new girlfriend. I think that was how it happened.
FM: So lots of different living situations without moving?
Yes. The house was always full.
FM: Do you think that pattern you’ve described, of kids and their partners moving in and out of their parents’ place, is that fairly usual here, or did you think it was unique to your family?
I think it is common in this area, but I wouldn’t know for sure because I just go to work and come home. I don’t go to the bar, the only place I go is bowling and baseball.
FM: So not a hot social life?
FM: And is that okay or do you wish it was different?
It’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t notice anything going on. I don’t think people are judging me in any way. Some people say I am … not out there.
FM: A stay-at-home guy, a home-lover?
In a way. Makes me not want to move out of [cottage county].
FM: So how does that fit with being a long-distance trucker?
It fits in my eyes because I get to come home at the end of the day or the end of the week. I still know that I live in [cottage county], that’s where my home is.
FM: I think that might bring us to the end of the story. Oh, no, one more question: what is the plan if or when you have to move out of this house? It is for sale, and even though it likely won’t sell this summer, it will eventually. So what’s the plan?
Well, me and my partner are expecting, so we’re looking at places to rent before the baby comes. So we don’t have to deal with that issue afterwards.
FM: So you’re apt to move out before the house sells?
Somewhere cheap, close to home, I don’t want to move far away. I like the rural life. The snowmobiling, the ATVing, ice fishing, hunting.
FM: What do you know about what’s available to rent in this county?
There’s not much out there for rent. If there is anything, they’re mostly houses and they’re pretty high prices. But there are a lot of houses for sale, even, in the county.
FM: So would you think about buying rather than renting?
I would sooner buy than rent but with our situation we can’t buy, we have to rent.
FM: Would either your parents or your partner’s parents be in a position or of a mind to help you buy?
Not likely. More so my parents than my partner’s parents. My parents are more understanding of what my partner and I do than my partner’s parents.
FM: Okay, is that the end of the story then?
Depends on how many more questions you want to ask me.
FM: Well, I do have a couple more questions. I would like you to tell me what you think the single Most Important Event in your life to date is. What ‘thing’ is most influential in shaping your future?
Family influences me the most. Whenever somebody asks – whenever one of my family members asks me for a favour, I never say no. We used to get together all the time and I loved it. Now there’s few times a year we get together, if any times we get together.
FM: Is that because of your partner? And the tension, maybe, that you referred to before, between her and your mom?
No. It has nothing to do with that.
FM: Is it about sorta growing out of the family nest? Going on to the next stage of life where you establish your own home, go from parents’ home to making your own? Is that it?
Yes I am influenced to make my own home, but close to where I feel comfortable.
FM: Okay, now this is a question about your judgment of your success in life going forward, however you define ‘success’, whatever you think it is. Do you think your life going forward will be successful or not? Are you optimistic or a bit worried about the future?
I’m not worried about the future. I think as long as I wake up in the morning the previous day was successful.
FM: Okay. Now two last questions: Two pieces of advice from you. One: What advice would you give to your younger self, whether or not your younger self would take the advice, what advice would you give to a younger you?
I would tell myself to get involved in sports in school.
Because I feel like there could be something missing. I like being active, playing sports.
FM: There’s sports for people after they leave school, when they’re adults. Why not now?
Well I am playing baseball but I’m also trying to make my home a home and live my life, pay my bills, start a family.
FM: Okay. So the second part of the advice question is: What advice would you give to those of us who would like to be helpful to young people, what advice would you give to us?
Help them see school is a good thing for them and make school seem more interesting. Like adding more, well, say, up here there’s no baseball team up here in school. There’s only hockey, basketball, well, there’s a lot of them there but why not baseball? How many other students would get involved into something active in their life?
FM: You were the generation of students who experienced a narrowing of what was available – from taking away grade 13, reducing sports alternatives, arts, cultural stuff, shop and applied things. I’m hearing you say that that narrowing of what school was about was a narrowing of what opportunities you had to explore what you would enjoy, learn new stuff maybe, and enjoy a fuller life. Anything to that?