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Journey to journeyperson almost complete for Mike Netser

There's a discernible mix of excitement and determination in Mike Netser's voice when he discusses how eager he is to reach journeyman housing maintainer status.

Mike Netser works in the shop during the practical portion of the housing maintainer program at the Sanatuliqsarvik Trades Training Centre in Rankin Inlet.
photo courtesy of the Sanatuliqsarvik Trades Training Centre

He's only one one module and dwindling number of apprenticeship hours away from reaching that goal.

"I'm really looking forward to one more challenge to get my (housing maintainer) certificate," he said. "Now I'm getting something out of it and I'm proud of it. I came a long way."

Netser has two of three levels under his belt through Nunavut Arctic College's housing maintainer program. He is hoping he can pass the third level by fall or next winter.

During his most recent training session, which he took between Jan. 9 and March 15 at the Sanatuliqsarvik Trades Training Centre in Rankin Inlet, Netser was shown how to maintain and repair forced-air furnaces, how to perform electrical duties, various safety practices and use of various tools.

"What I learned is that an OBM (oil-burner mechanic) or apprentice technician should service their boiler or furnace once a year to make it maintenance free, (by achieving) operating efficiency."

There were only three people enrolled in the program while he was in Rankin Inlet. He said he encourages others to get involved in trades training because it broadens career options.

"It's hard to sacrifice from your spouse or your kids or from your home community – it's not easy being away from them. But, at the end of the day, you get something out of it. Stick with it. It's only two months out of your life," he advised. "There's a lot of work for electricians, OBM, plumbing, carpentry. There's a demand for it. Not everyone wants to be an office-based lawyer, or a doctor, or a big government job. There's a lot of hands-on stuff that's enjoyable."

It was the "hands-on" nature of the job and working with power tools that attracted him to the occupation, he said. He's already assisted in building a house from scratch while amassing close to a decade's worth of carpentry and home maintenance experience, some of it with his current employer, the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation in Iqaluit.

However, the formal training in the classroom and the shop is helpful, he acknowledged.

"It's very important. It gives my employer confidence that I'm qualified now and they can trust me more with stuff," Netser said.

For those interested in following in his footsteps, the housing maintainer program through Nunavut Arctic College is generally a three-year process, entailing an annual 560 hours of practical experience and 240 hours of theory.

Math and science specific to trades are part of the curriculum. For students who struggle to meet the pass mark of 65 per cent in theory and 70 per cent on a government-administered exam, up to two weeks of tutoring can be arranged, along with a second chance to write the exam, according to Nunavut Arctic College.