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College connects Ukrainian worker with Coldstream company

Okanagan College project allows Coldstream business to hire Ukrainian refugee
Greg Thompson of Coldstream’s Thompson and Sons Construction (left) used a $10,000 grant from Okanagan College’s Apprentice Hiring Project to welcome Ukraine refugee Fedir Solovei (right) to the company. (Okanagan College Photo)

When Fedir Solovei and his family arrived in Vernon from Ukraine last year, they were looking for a fresh start after escaping the harsh realities of the Russian invasion of his home country.

Of the many hurdles Solovei was facing, finding employment was top of the list. Highly accomplished in Ukraine, Solovei was handy and had some experience in construction.

He applied for a position with Thompson and Sons Construction as a carpenter’s helper and was hired, finding a supportive environment where he could take control of his future and get into the workforce.

Solovei is the third employee at Thompson and Sons who has moved to the Okanagan from Ukraine. He soon met others at work, including four carpenter apprentices at Okanagan College (OC). Excited by new possibilities, and ready to learn new skills, Solovei followed suit and is now also on the path to becoming a carpenter apprentice with his first-year courses set to start at OC in the spring.

Thompson and Sons, meanwhile, secured financial support through OC’s Apprentice Hiring Project to create the apprenticeship position.

“I want to develop my knowledge and skills to help me become a specialist,” says Solovei. “I am sure the skills I’ll be able to pick up at Okanagan College are valuable and significant, as I am a witness to the high professionalism of my colleagues who have taken the classes.”

The Apprentice Hiring Project makes $5,000 of funding available to employers who hire first-year apprentices in one of 39 red seal construction and manufacturing trades. Employers like Thompson and Sons receive $10,000 for hiring a newcomer to Canada or a person from another equity-deserving group. Since the program began last August, there have been more than 50 businesses sign up for the program.

Greg Thompson knew things would work out with Solovei, based on his past work experience in Ukraine. Not only did he quickly display a solid work ethic, Thompson had already hired several OC apprentices and they were solid employees.

“We felt confident that it would be a great opportunity for Fedir and his family to gain a foothold in Canada, to learn a trade and feel grounded,” says Thompson. “Learning a trade is a way to integrate oneself into the industry and community. We’re happy to be involved with the Apprentice Hiring Project.

“We’re working hard to help students enter the workforce and the Apprentice Hiring Project allows us to help connect apprentices with local businesses who are looking for skilled workers,” said Stephen Speers, OC’s dean of trades and apprenticeship. “At Okanagan College, we’ve got skilled instructors working with students in small classes, providing the hands-on training that is key to getting into a great career.”

The Apprentice Hiring Project is funded by the Government of Canada’s Apprenticeship Service and in partnership with OC. The project’s goal is to support the hiring of first-year apprentices, enhance workplace diversity and to provide guidance to employers.

If you are interested in hiring a first-year apprentice, apply for the Apprentice Hiring Project here or by calling 250-762-5445 ext. 4479.

READ MORE: Ukraine family adjusts to North Okanagan life

READ MORE: Vernon stands with Ukraine with vigil marking one year since Russian invasion

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About the Author: Vernon Morning Star Staff

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