Many developers and communities are seeking to reuse older structures, and as a result, demand for Heritage Retrofit Carpenters is high. Heritage Retrofit Carpentry involves conserving historic properties by upgrading and restoring them to modern energy efficiency and structural standards while retaining their original appearance.
In the nine-month Holland College Heritage Retrofit Carpentry program, students learn construction techniques that were used centuries ago, as well as how to combine traditional skills with the latest technology.
Demand for Heritage Retrofit Carpenters
“In the last few years, our graduates have seen 100 percent job placement,” says Josh Silver, Learning Manager. “There are a lot of job opportunities for Heritage Retrofit graduates that would not be available to the typical carpenter. Our graduates can also apply their skills to any age of building.
“Charlottetown has more heritage buildings than any other city in Canada. Buildings with a heritage designation must be repaired in kind and must look similar to the original piece, so there is an endless volume of work available to people who have the skills to restore and maintain that heritage.
“We need trained Carpenters with the skills to take care of our heritage buildings and maintain the historic fabric of our community. Those historic buildings won’t survive if we don’t know how to protect and maintain them. Our graduates are the front-line of protecting that history.”
Employment opportunities for graduates
- Building contractors
- Custom woodworking shops
- Building supply yards
This is the seventh year of the Heritage Retrofit Carpentry program. Sixteen students are accepted per year, and there is a waiting list. Courses include timber frame carpentry, restoration and renovation, finishing, energy efficiency, and architectural history.
The program has five Instructors. In addition to Josh Silver, Trevor Young teaches the hands-on skills. There is also a math instructor, a blueprint and drafting instructor, and a computer and communication instructor.
Mathematics applied to real life
“One fifth of the curriculum is devoted to mathematics,” says Josh. “We try to instill a love of math into our students. One aspect is trigonometry, which is a scary word to most people, until they learn it’s really about triangles. When students learn a math concept, we immediately apply the mathematical theory to useful, hands-on work, which makes it very meaningful.
“A carpenter’s work is inescapable from Math,” says Trevor. “We spend days doing the math and drawing a blueprint before we begin to build. We also practice a lot of mental math, so that calculations can be done on the fly. Some students come into the program believing they are not good in math, and end up with really good grades.”
Two generations of Carpenters
Trevor’s father took the Carpentry program at Prince of Wales College (now Holland College) and helped in the restoration work on Province House years ago. Trevor has continued that tradition. He has many years of experience in the renovation industry, and in addition to working as an instructor in the program, he also has his own home renovation business.
Students help restore a famous Charlottetown heritage building
“Province House is undergoing at least four years of restoration work,” says Josh. “Last year, ten of our graduates were hired to work on the project, and an endless supply of craftspeople will be needed to continue the work.
“Parks Canada recognizes the importance of allowing local students to build their skills in the renovation process at Province House,” says Josh. “Province House is the crown jewel of the country, and Canada was founded within those walls.
“The building is 178 years old, and we are very privileged to work on it. It’s amazing for our students and graduates to be trusted to restore it and be able to point to a window and say they are part of that history. The building should be still standing long after we are gone, with the right craftspeople to maintain it.”
This year, they are dismantling and storing trim, doors, and windows, and building crates to store everything. One of the female graduates was hired to catalogue each piece so that it can be put back exactly where it should be.
In the summer of 2018, program graduates will begin restoring the windows, removing old paint and replacing rotted parts. Once the building is restored, the next step will be to reinstall all the woodwork and windows.
The students have also used specific construction techniques to build timber frame arches for Parks Canada campgrounds, and will install them on site. They are also building an iceboat based on original drawings of vessels used in PEI waters.
Number of females in Carpentry on the rise
Across the country, just 1 to 3 percent of Carpenters are female. This program is working to raise the numbers. “In 2015 and 2016, the class was evenly split between male and female,” says Josh. “This year there are fewer females, but we still have more female students than any other trade at the college.
“This program attracts more females because it does not involve as much heavy lifting as the regular carpentry program – it’s more about passion and art. At the Province House work site, the graduate who is doing the best in terms of financial compensation and promotion is female.”
The path to a Red Seal
Earning a Red Seal in Carpentry is a four-year journey to gain the hours needed to be eligible to write the Red Seal exam. The four years could be any combination of education and practical experience under the direction of a Red Seal Carpenter.
For more information about the Heritage Retrofit Carpentry program, visit www.hollandcollege.com/programs/heritage-retrofit-carpentry/.