Photo: During a recent class,Great Lakes Technical Training students from left — Chris Brown, Chris Hachey, Bruce Jewell, Damian Meggo, Nick Zikantas, Thair Haji-Mahmoud, Dante Bergeron (kneeling) — receive hands on training from Instructor Mike Bonter.
The Heat Is On At Great Lakes Technical Training
Story And Photos By Joe McParland
Right around “International Women’s Day” in early March I paid a visit to a remarkable business woman who had been featured in a short article in our April 2010 issue of Biz X magazine. Patricia Bastien is the Owner of Great Lakes Technical Training (GLTT), a private training centre registered under the authority of the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act.
Located in an industrial park at 6460 Hawthorne Drive in Windsor, it provides courses for Gas Technicians (levels 1, 2, 3) and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) training both on a part time and full time basis.
GLTT was originally housed in the building of J.E. Murphy Heating and Air Conditioning when it was located in LaSalle. When the LaSalle business was sold to Fahrhall Home Comfort Specialists in 2009, Bastien purchased the training business and relocated to its current location.
Bastien has a long background in this trade as she recounts here: “I’ve worked for Reliance, Union Gas, and J.E. Murphy. When J.E. Murphy was sold and the training centre business temporarily ceased, I found myself unemployed in mid-life. And this was after I had been laid-off three times in three years. So, I decided to ‘buy myself a job’ and I purchased GLTT.”
But, her timing in buying the business presented its challenges. Not only was the area reeling from the recession in the early 2000s, but she was now heading a male dominated “skilled trades” business that, until now, had not seen a middle-aged woman at the helm.
In McMaster University’s Automotive Policy Research Centre’s “Industry Profile: Automotive Manufacturing in Canada in 2013,” author Brendan Sweeney describes the precarious state of our once flourishing auto industry national, with specific impact on the Windsor Essex Region . . .
“While automotive manufacturing has regained some of the ground lost during the recent economic downturn, production and employment remain well below those of the decade between 1996 and 2006. Production capacity in several automotive parts sub-sectors is decimated and Canada’s balance of trade has been negative since 2007. These are particular causes for concern.”
As a result, Windsor Essex, understandably, took the nation’s hardest hit, unfortunately leading the country with the highest rates of unemployment. This signalled to the region the necessity of diversifying its manufacturing base.
The resulting efforts have been impressive. According to the latest labour force survey by Statistics Canada, Windsor’s unemployment rate was at 4.6 percent in January 2018, lower than the national level of 5.9 percent.
Windsor has always prided itself on having a skilled workforce. It just needed some reorientation and skill updates for newer and diverse manufacturing. With the baby boomer generation retiring in large numbers, new opportunities were presenting themselves to the younger generations, often at a pace where there were not enough available workers for job opportunities. Therefore, GLTT, along with St. Clair College, helps address the shortage of certified gas fitters and HVAC technicians in their curriculums.
Bastien is a diminutive, middle-aged woman who casts a big shadow among the students and trainers. She appears to be comfortable among the HVAC prototypes, boilers, washing machines and assorted apparatus just like many women her age might feel comfortable in their own kitchens. She even returned to the classroom and successfully completed her G3 gas technician course.The instructors at GLTT are all certified gas technicians. Some instruct full time, while others instruct on a part time basis while working full time in the field. All share a passion for what they do and an eagerness to properly train willing students.
According to Bastien, “the HVAC community is very small, so everybody knows everybody. It’s not like we are going to the general public in search of instructors; it’s usually guys we know from company to company.”
As well many of the instructors play a significant role in securing full time work for the students they teach upon successful completion of their training.
GLTT’s students range from young teens to middle-aged workers seeking retraining for a new career. They come from as far as Sarnia to receive this training. Like their instructors, some take courses full time, while others are attending part time a few nights a week, while also working full time.
Their training is a combination of classroom lectures and hands on experience. They start with a G3 designation, moving on to the industry-seeking G2 license level and can then advance to the G3 designation allowing for larger commercial work opportunities. All students must complete the requisite number of hours and successfully pass their provincial exams under the Technical Standards and Safety Authority.
Since GLTT is a private school, students do not qualify for financial assistance though the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). However, there are many other sources of financial assistance for students who have been displaced from their jobs. Prospective students should register with an Unemployed Help Centre and have a counsellor assist them.
Bastien also points out that “Some students will already be working in the field and their company will assist them in the financial costs to help them achieve their licensing.”
For more information on Great Lakes Technical Training, visit their website: GreatLakesTechnicalTraining.com.
I look forward to perhaps another write-up on Bastien and her successful business in eight years time!