Our first 2-guest episode is live! Rhys has been speaking with Kevin Graham and Joshua Wells about Tools in the Trades. Based in Niagara Falls, Canada, these two trade experts are helping to train new generations of Tradesmen and Tradeswomen across the country. Discover what they have to share about mentors, motivation, and much, much more!
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This is Take Stock presented by Commusoft, the podcast where we bring together diverse experts and leaders to discuss the top trends, ideas, and strategies used in the field service industry and beyond. Let's dive in.
Hi listeners and welcome back to Take Stock. I'm your host Rhys Pattimore, and today it's my pleasure to be speaking with not one but two very special guests, which is a first for us. So please allow me to introduce Kevin Graham and Joshua Wells. They're experienced tradesmen in themselves and they help run Tools in the Trades Boot Camps based Niagara Falls, Canada, and I'm really looking forward to speaking with 'em both. So gentlemen, welcome to the show, great to have you here.
Kevin Graham: 0:57
Oh, thank you very much Rhys. Thank you for having us.
So we can dive right in. What better place to start than, you know, if you wouldn't mind just introducing yourselves and tell us more about what you guys do.
Joshua Wells: 1:07
Basically what, what we do, it's a one day bootcamp, you know, to try to get the younger generation or second, you know, second career people, just to get them into the trades. There is such a demand for the trades people, you know, like the houses that we all live in, the buildings that we go grocery shopping in and stuff. They didn't just mar miraculously appear. they they got built by tradespeople, you know, in your house, the plumbing, electrical you know, even mill rights and factories to make the parts, you know, for cars and everything like that. Like the world revolves around tradespeople. And with there being such a demand in that field, like this is a great opportunity to come out to one of our boot camps and get your feet wet for one day. And you know, depending on the trade that you wanna sign up for, And come and just, you know, get, get your feet wet, get your hand, get a nice set of tools. Use your tools, you know, and see if this is something that you can dive down, you could see yourself or if it's not for you, you know?
Kevin Graham: 2:05
I think re what we're trying to do is, is vital for young people. We're trying to light a spark that, that they'll, that will ignite and they'll want to go into the skilled trades or like Joshs or they don't want, either way is a win-win. Whether they wanna go in is ex. It's extremely a win. If they find out they don't want to go, it's also win for them. And I think now we need these people so much right now. Now's the. It, it's financially the time for them. It's the opportunities are there for them, the quality of life is there for them. Everything lined up right now for people going to skill trade and be successful and have a successful experience. So what we are trying to do is right now we're going after the second, the, the second pathway. So the first pathway for many of them may not have worked. I'm a big believer that it should be your first pathway into the skilled trades. It isn't always that way. Some people go other paths and it didn't work out. So they come back and we're giving 'em that second opportunity. And I think it's, it's so important that they, we like that fire for them, that they have that opportunity to get going in the skilled trade.
Yeah, that's amazing. I mean, sometimes that's all people need just a, an instance of of one day, and that could be enough to get them to, you know, change their whole career path, their whole life. So it's an amazing thing that you guys are doing and we're happy to, you know, try and do our part to help share that as well.
Joshua Wells: 3:27
It's, it's planting that seed and like just adding a little bit of water and hopefully it. You know, planting that seed in their head, you just add, add water, which is knowledge into that trade that they're signed up for. And you know, let, let nature take over. If it's in you, you know it, it'll come out.
Oh, I mean, for your, for yourselves is that something that when you were younger, were, were there opportunities that were as easy to access as, as this, or is that part of what maybe drove you to create. The boot camps and everything from there, like how did you get yourselves into the, the trades?
Kevin Graham: 4:00
I think I was fortunate. I came outta high school not thinking I was gonna go to university, and on the way to university I stopped to say goodbye to my friends and I ended up taking a job that day in a factory. which I stayed for 11 months and realized I didn't like shift work. I didn't like factory work. And then a person fell from a scaffold and broke his neck, And a guy came up, he goes, do you want a job as a carpenter? And I went, yeah, that sounds better. I just, I still remember the first day we were framing up a new house and I could hear birds and sunlight and smell. The air was such a different environment for me. I fell in love with it right away. So I stayed in in the construction trade. So I was 30 from the time of the 18 till I was 30. I started my own business, did that route. I realized I was more of a carpenter than a businessman. There's a big difference between a good carpenter and a business person. I realized I was more hands on than a business. So I've eventually went into teaching and started teaching the skilled trades carpentering in high school, which I taught for 33 years. So, After retiring from there, this job came up and it was just a natural fit for me to, I've always wanted young people to go into skilled trades and I always pushed skilled trades for young people, and this is kind of a natural way to say, okay, this is your next step. You've worked so hard at trying to give opportunities to kids, now you have an opportunity to to sign 'em up, to apprenticeship and get them started along their career. So, you know, the kids, the adults we have now have the opportunity to meet with employers and sign the apprenticeship and get. right off the bat. I think that's a key to, so our success is they're able to meet with the employers the day of the camp. Not only do they get to experience the skilled trade, they also get to experience those people that are actually hiring in the skilled trade. So that's sort of the, the luxury that we had. That's kind of my story, how I came. Josh came in a little different than I did.
Joshua Wells: 5:48
Yeah, I was I graduated high school, but, you know, playing high. Always into sports and stuff. So I was more of a, a physical active person. And when I graduated I had no clue what I wanted to do. The only thing I knew I didn't want to do was go to college or university because I was just happy to get out of high school. And so my father came to me, he is like the summer of, and he goes, well, what are you gonna do? And I said, well, I'm not going to school. So he goes, well, you're not staying at home either. You're gonna get a job He said, all right, sounds good. And. I don't know what kind of pointed me in the direction, but I, I, I was driving around and I stopped onto a construction site and they were framing houses and I walked up to them and asked if they would you know, be if they were looking for help. And he says, always, you know, but we'll give you a two week trial period first and see if you cut it. I'm like, all right. It was a little bit rough, you know, I. To be expected. And after two weeks he says, all right, you're hired and started me at $7 and 50 cents. So, so I was ecstatic to have a full-time job right out in of school and actually making money, you know, like I, I was still living at home. Yes. But I mean, you know, I was bringing home four or $500 for that week and it was like, oh my gosh, this is awesome. I'm not going to school. I'm making a living. And, and it's. Every day like I got, I was just the knowledge and seeing, actually physically seeing something that you, you were, you get to the job site and no walls are up and then all of a sudden, boom, all the exterior walls are up. When you're leaving that day, you're like, wow, I physically accomplished that. I did that with my crew today. Like there was a, a sense of gratification. And just joy that you, I completed something in a positive way.
Kevin Graham: 7:30
I Think everybody comes in different res, like everybody has a different opportunity and a different story that I think the main thing between Josh and I, we, the, a door opened and we walked through it and everything happened after that. So somebody offered us the job that we wanted to take. We took the job, we walked through that door, and from there Josh went on. various jobs and various opportunities that opened up. I went on to various jobs and opportunities that opened up until I finally went into teaching. But the first step was to open that door, and I think that's what we're trying to teach our candidates. So when the door opens, walk through it, it doesn't matter if it's. A laborers job or a carpenter's job, or a plumber's job, it's to walk in and, and start, start your adventure, I guess would be the easiest way to say it. Unless we put our first foot forward into that door, we can't get moving forward. So,
no, absolutely. I mean, and it sounds like you've got, you've been able to, Do more than obviously what you guys came along, you, you were able to take that step and kind of find your, find your way into it. But to be able to have a team behind you and to work collaboratively together, you were able to open so many more doors, so much faster, I suppose. Cuz one, one thing that stood out was just how many boot camps you guys have done now as well. Like, can you remind me how many, how long have you been running the boot camps for? Cuz you've done about 160 over that now I think is.
Kevin Graham: 8:53
We've been done just over two years, September of last year. So a year and a half. And we did about 160 camps to date. We have a few more this week. We got some this week, some next week. So we're, and we're planning now for next year, so,
Nice. No, that's amazing. Like to go to scale that quickly as well and, you know, introduce so many people to trades in all sorts of different ways that's genuinely like really amazing. And I think one thing that a lot of people don't maybe experience is that sense of, oh, here's another option, or here's a, that, like in my experience, it's probably very still somewhat different or maybe a bit similar from the UK to Canada. But the academic side was what was always thrown at us. But I think. from my side as much as I enjoyed university and whatnot as well. It would've been really interesting having a a situation like yours with a, with a boot camp being like, come and experience this alternative and see what success it can bring you as well. Cuz like you said, making, even making money or getting out and being in nature or a combination of the two, those things might resonate with someone and they might not expect it. So, I mean, from, from that side of, is there anything. It's really stood out from the last few years of some of like the best success stories that you've seen, like working with different employers or what you've seen some of, like the apprentices take away from, from the boot camps.
Kevin Graham: 10:13
I, I have the one story that comes to my mind. We had a small camp on a very rainy, cold day, so the numbers were extremely low, but the people that came out were motivated and, and wanted the job. I think a one young girl who was very motivated and wanted the. employers came out at lunchtime to talk to 'em about opportunities that they might have, and met this, this young lady and within a 24 hours she was hired and started her apprenticeship. And I think that's, that's one of those exciting things that you want to happen at every camp that somebody ed and meet somebody and hires them. But it changed her life totally. She was in a job that she didn't like wanted to do something else. It was automotive and she had the. To go there. And you said about university reefs. We have a lot of college and university grads that have graduated from university or college and found out that wasn't the direction they wanted. And after paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to get to where they wanted, they realize that that's not what they want. The goal they wanted. They come and try the skilled trades and lots of 'em make not only great trades people, but they also make great businessmen that they can go on and start their own business and and go from there. So we've had lots. we've given lots of opportunities to a variety of people, I guess would be the easiest way to say it, from university college or people coming right outta high school that wants to get into the skilled trades. I, I, I've had the experience of, of looking at UK and, and visiting the UK to see their educational structure way back when. Hmm. And in Canada, we look at, at the UK as being the end all, be all for skilled trades. But when you see it up close, it's not what we think it was 50 years ago. Mm-hmm. it's changed dramatically since then. So, so I think it's, it's time that we look at skilled trades as the first choice. Not a second or third choice, but a first choice.
So, no, absolutely. I, I think that's something that I think a lot of our UK listeners, especially tradies in particular will be familiar with, is that trying to get over that hurdle of convincing, you know, a young person. Here's this route into employment, which, you know, you, you can dive into and you can enjoy. Don't just look in one direction, you know, open that scope and see what else is out there. But that's a real struggle to get over. Like, what, what are some of the ways you found are most useful as a, as a way to connect to maybe a younger crowd or a younger audience?
Joshua Wells: 12:34
Yeah. It's, it's all about like the opportunity. You know, a door opens up and you've gotta walk, walk through the door, you know, put that first mm-hmm. that best foot forward. You never know where it's gonna lead, but that's what, that's life. You know, if you don't take that chance, that, that, if you want to call it a risk, it's not, I don't, I don't think it's, you know, really a risk. But if you take that first, that chance. You, you knew who knows where you're gonna end up, but it's because you took that, that step in through the door, you know, years, years before that made you end up, you know, it's crazy. You'll look back from 10 years from now and say, my gosh, if I wouldn't have taken that chance, like if I wouldn't have gone down that path, and then look at where you're at and you're like, wow, that's such an amazing accomplishment.
Kevin Graham: 13:18
It's not that far off University Rhys, when you think about it, you go to university, you don't know what you're gonna do at the end. You have an idea that you're gonna be a lawyer. You have the idea you're gonna be a doctor. Until you finish that final exams, you're not there and you go from a doctor to a businessman to owner of a medical institute. It's the same with construction. You go from a, a laborer to a carpenter to electric or go from a laborer to electrician or go to whatever specific HVAC or whatever trade you're interested in. It doesn't mean that that's the final destination. It it, like if you look at my life, I went from a, a, a carpenter to a high scaffold rigger into a, a maintenance job, into a teaching job and spent 33 years teaching in a, in a secondary school. So your avenue is wide open. I could have owned a business, I could have ran a business, I could have done anything in between teaching and carpentry. I mean, there's a vast, and I think that just takes time and we have to let people know. It's not your first step, doesn't mean it's your last step. It's an adventure that you're gonna start and where it ends up. It's no different than university. You, when you graduated university, you thought you're gonna be something and your path totally changed as you grew and you developed what you wanted to do. The same thing will happen in the skilled trades, and that's the excitement of the skilled trades.
No, absolutely. I think one thing as well, I was curious to ask too, was I did notice it. Just young people you're reaching out to as well. Is that right? You're also working with anyone? Is it anyone who might be interested in exploring the trades? And did you start with young people and then open the scope or was that something you always had in mind of, if you're interested, come check us out.
Kevin Graham: 14:55
Well, originally we were given the funding to work with high school. Mm-hmm. students and somehow else that was the first year funding second year came along and they said, no more high schools. Which, which I never understood. Cause I think the first choice. It is a great choice for people to get right into skill trades from high school, but they said it would have to be an adult. So we then we opened up the doors to anybody that's finished high school in college could enter, but, and Josh, I'll speak to the volume of people we're getting at that 30. 32, 34 year old person now coming out to the camp likely dominates any younger group. So, Josh, go ahead.
Joshua Wells: 15:33
Even a couple times, you know, like more than a couple times we've had people come out, you know, in their fifties, you know, like some of them looking for the second career, and sometimes they're down a little bit and they're like, yeah, but I, you know, I really always wanted to get into this trade and now, now is the time I'm, I'm gonna take it serious and. Try to put my best foot forward. And they're like, but I know nobody's gonna want me cuz I'm, I'm in like 53 or 55. And I said, you know, like you can't be down. Like you never, you never know. You can't count yourself out before you've even gotten your foot in. You need to stay positive and keep pursuing. If this is your dream, don't let anybody stop you from, from getting what you want. You know, and by and, and your fifties, you're mature like, you know, the basic. Basics of what companies are looking for as well. And I'm not saying like forties or 30 year olds don't know that either, but you know what it takes to make it in the world as far as holding a job once you do have that job. Mm-hmm. I, I just try to try to up bill them and say, Hey, you know what? You know how to show up on time. you know, not to be on your cell phone, like you already have these instilled in you as a, as a successful person, just living life. So with, with the age, it's, you know, we get a lot of people with the second careers and some, you know, in the twenties. But I, I'd say probably our average age is, you know, 32 to 42. I would say somewhere in there, you know, it's people who maybe have tried that job, you know, at the grocery store or didn't realize it's a dead end or a dead end factory job, or people who just want something more, maybe a little bit more job security.
Kevin Graham: 17:07
We also have newcomers that are new to Canada. That we see a lot of them coming on board. They're saying, okay, this is what they want. They've come to Canada, they've made a big change from their own country. Now they're coming to Canada and wanna do something different. Or that person wants to make a second career If they got into an office job and went, I don't, I don't wanna do this, or, I want to, I wanna do something more creative with my hands because it's most skilled trades are very creative. It gives them a chance to express their creativity as long as well as their skill. So it's a combination of being creative and skillful and a businessman. If you are business person, if you want to go start your own business.
Joshua Wells: 17:45
We, we just had a camp here on Thursday and we had three people from the Ukraine. Yeah. I mean, with everything that's going on, you know, it's like, we all know it's real, but it's like having, actually having three people that moved here from either Ukraine, that with everything going on was amazing. It was awesome to, you know, see they're trying to start their life over again,
Kevin Graham: 18:04
and newcomers can make a connection very quickly into the skilled trades that they. if, if they have, if they see something that they like, they can make that connection that very night and start on their way and skilled trade. Not only about the skilled traits, and I think that's what we try to half our half our day, is qu is working with tools and learning the trade the other half of the day is spent in employability skills. What makes a good employer? What makes you show up on time? Why do you not touch your phone? Why do you, those are the things that are just as important. as getting into the skilled trades is the employability skills of what employers are looking for. Mm-hmm. How to be good at your job and, and how to stay employed once you do get employed.
Yeah. And that, that all comes from a mindset and a work ethic at the core of what those people bring. I suppose, like you said, people coming from Ukraine or coming from different age groups and different walks of life. If they're coming with the right mindset, then you know, a skill can be learned and perfected. You just need that bit of guidance. Which in itself is quite inspiring as a thought. So I mean, and in that case, if I ever felt like I needed a, a change of pace in the move, maybe I could head over to Canada at some point. I mean, in particular with the, the war in Ukraine, it's not the only big thing to happen in the last few years to say least. But with the effects of the pandemic and everything else as well, is how dramatically did that influence what you guys were doing and how you shaped boot camps? Cause I suppose at that time, I don't know if it was a bit different in Canada, were, were things opening up again, was that something that affected how you could put this whole thing together to shape everything?
Kevin Graham: 19:44
Well, we started, well first of all, everybody that everybody that taught for us, all the instructors that are qualified tradespeople, that came on to instruct mm-hmm. because we were working in high schools originally. The mandate, they all had to be double vaed or triple vax or whatever part of the vaccination process we were in at that time. And then everything had to be outside. So all through winter, even, even now, we do, I would say 75 to 80% of our cancer done outside. And of course back then there was mass mandates and and all that that went with it. But Covid didn't really slow us down until the schools were actually shut and closed. And we went to adult camps and they did, most of them had to be housed outside. So that's how we just ran it. We ran it outside with mass or without masks, and depending on where we're at as far as shutdown. And we kept going and we had a lot of success during that time, you know, and we still have that same success of running things outside or inside. It gives a real true value when you're out in a, we're in Canada and it is wintertime and it's negative 12 or something yesterday. And and so they're outside and they're doing just the same as you go by a trade site and they're outside working. Working there as well with no heat. And they're building a house down by my place on the lake. And they were out there yesterday in the minus 12 sitting on the A bench having lunch or outside. And I go, that's the warmest, they're gonna be all day. Right there. Like, and then they were framing. So it's it's reality. And that's how we ran the camp. This is part of being real. It is being everything outside, including the employability skills in the early days.
Joshua Wells: 21:27
Were all outside Everything that we run. You try given the, the real life experience. You know, the weather is what it is, and you know, some people might take it off because the day off. For, whether it's for work or whatever to come to this camp. And it's like, those are the ones that really want to be here. You know, they're not gonna let the weather stop them. And, and that's what the trades is, you know, not, you know, I can't put a number on it, but you're gonna be outside. Not all, every job will be inside in a nice, warm, cushy, can't really space, you know, so it, it's, it's really good to give them real life experiences on the project. As well as the weather
Kevin Graham: 22:05
And I think we were successful cause we weren't online, so we were one of the few that were still face-to-face. So we, they were able to make the connections that they can't necessarily make online. So that, that gave us a bit of an edge, I think, to. to really get kickstarted.
No, I suppose that was something I did wanna ask about actually, because I noticed that you are appearing more and more on, you're on Facebook, on LinkedIn, on Twitter, on TikTok and everything like that as well. Is that a recent evolution for how you, how you're promoting yourselves now and trying to spread the word more widely? How have you been finding that, Jenny?
Kevin Graham: 22:37
We find that the every avenue comes differently. Everybody comes from it. We pull the camps to find out where they've heard about us, and lots of times it's a girlfriend or a mom. that is trying to put somebody outta the basement, but li it comes from all those avenues. So that's why we're really pushing for the, the wideness and the breadth of the social media because it does work and they are coming. We have other ways too, where Indeed and all the employability programs are out there that they apply through as well. But we're finding that a lot of the social media is where they're finding out about us and coming. The camps are getting bigger and bigger. We just had one here the other day of over 90 people. Oh, wow. camps are getting larger and larger each time as we go. So, and camps are getting so low, quicker as well. They're, they're being filled up and we have to close camps because of the numbers are getting so big. Oh, so social media plays a big impact like it does with everybody else like it does with you, like it does with us, like it does with the world right now. So,
No, it's definitely something that helps broaden that scope and that speaks to the popularity of what you're doing as well. If by we're exploding on social media, but then also just booking out those camps that quickly as well. How does the future of the boot camps and everything look for you guys then? I mean, obviously very positive, but how do you see that growing and shaping that growth? Cuz that's always something which tricky to manage.
Kevin Graham: 23:58
I think that's in the politician's hands right now. We're funded till March 29th. Okay. So now we wait to see when and when the next funding should be. At any time we're hope we, we've met all our goals, we've accomplished all the tasks that they've set out that we should do. Mm-hmm. So we feel really at peace about moving ahead and, and getting ready for next year. We're planning for next year. We're planning for revamping of curriculum and revamping of tools, selection and that type of thing over the next few months, and we hope to be on the road again. early June if everything goes as planned. That's our goal. Now, if the government decides otherwise, We'll just live with their decision. But we hope that we've met their mandate and we, we know we have, and we, we've surpassed on most of the, the criteria that we had to do. We surpassed those like we were supposed to do, I think 50 camps this year, and we're at 80 or 90 camps this year. So we're, we're, and only because the demand's there. Yeah. And we keep moving ahead as long as the demand is there. So, And we feel that it, it, it's helped a lot of people. It gave a lot of people the chance to get into the skilled trade. And we've, we're creating that environment where Canada, and I imagine the UK is the same way. We have a shortage of skilled traits. Mm-hmm. Absolutely. And we, we feel that we're making that mandate possible to help bridge that gap between not having enough and having at least some apprentices that can move forward into the journey person position. Hmm.
Yeah, and I mean, I'll keep my fingers crossed for your continued success. I mean, it sounds like it's having the positive impact that's needed. Which is amazing and I'm sure maybe like me some of our listeners will be curious to know about the people behind the boot camps, cuz there's clearly a lot of time and effort that goes into it with yourselves as well. Could you just walk us through a bit how you put everything together and the team that you are working with?
Kevin Graham: 25:52
We, we have six people in the office. Mm-hmm. that are full-time people that are doing it five days a week to set up camps, to set up curriculum. Josh does all the, all, all the running and the boot camps on the road. And then he has 30, 30, 30, 30 qualified trade people on the road Yeah. That he works with at, at, at delivering actual camps. So we have about 38 people all totaled the people on the road actually. All parttime skilled.
Joshua Wells: 26:21
Yeah. Part, part-time.
Kevin Graham: 26:22
All skilled trades people. Hmm. A lot of them own their own business and they're doing this because they wanna see more people in, they all have the same passion we have. That they believe that young people or, or any age person needs to experience the skilled trades. And we all have the same passion, I guess is what I'm trying to say. To, to lead people to the skilled trades. Would you say that?
Joshua Wells: 26:45
It's, it's, it's caring. You know, it goes back to human nature. If you care about something, you care about humanity and, and everything, and about other people starting their lives off or their careers on the right foot, you know, if you could see that person from step A to step Z, it's, it's very rewarding, you know, just as from a human. Perspective to see to that you knowing that you had a hand in somebody else's success. Mm-hmm. you know, in their, in their future, you know, you, you opened that door for them a little bit and they took it and ran with it's. It's very gratifying.
Kevin Graham: 27:18
It's, it's like your job Rhys it. You have to have passion to do it. I mean, it's the same as the skill trades. It's rewarding. The more, the more passion you have, the more rewarding it is. It's like any other job that if you have the passion, it's gonna be rewarding at the end. This one here is, is the passions. Teaching is passionate, but the rewards come. far after you're done teaching, cuz you don't always get those students coming up to you until they're 40 or 50 years old and say, ah, you made a big influence in my life. Hmm. Or construction, you know, by lunchtime that you're making a difference. Mm-hmm. because that whatever you're doing is, is coming to completion. So you have that instant reward to justify the passion that you put into it. And the more passion you have, the more rewards you.
Mm, no, for sure. And that's something that I think you see, I guess, translate every day. If, like you said earlier, if you're putting up a, putting up a house or installing a new appliance for someone, and you can see that you are fulfilling a need, that is something that is incredibly gratifying. Like no matter, no matter what you're doing, if you're behind the screen or if you're actually physically doing, doing the work as well. That is always inspiring to see. And I guess that, is that a big part of what motivates you guys every day, like seeing those reactions from the people coming on board and, and getting involved? Is, is that something that, that translates, that gives you that bit of motivation to keep going with everything?
Kevin Graham: 28:38
Well, that's, that's a drive for all of us. Yeah. I mean, you come to a camp and see. A newcomer to Canada or a, a young female or a, a person that's been struggling in, in his thirties to find out where he fits in in the world, and you see everything click. I, I don't think there's a bigger rush for us than to see that. That happened firsthand. And then you just build on that. Each camp you get more and more and it get, it becomes easier and faster. And we're setting 'em up with, with mentors and, and and they're becoming tradespeople. I mean, it is exciting. It's what it's all about going from zero to 60 in a matter of days instead years. So do you not find that?
Joshua Wells: 29:19
When you have people coming up to you at the end of the camp and you know they're shaking your hand? You know, we're asking you questions, you know, on your pathway into the trades or whatever questions they might have with it. And then when they come up at the end and they shake your hand, thank you so much. You know, this was such a great day. You know, I made, the networking part of it is huge with the employers and then even all of our qualified instructors and stuff like these are all opportunities for the participants that come to possibly. get something, you know, to start their career. So when they're coming up to you at the end and shake your hand and just give you the, just say thank you, you know, that, that in itself just, just that is like, we all know why we do it, but that's just like the icing on the cake.
Mm-hmm. that, that means you can go home happy at the end of the day. Yeah, for sure.
Kevin Graham: 30:05
When you first seven or eight hour camp and you spend another hour with them after the camp, them asking you questions and, and telling you how excited they are, you know, you've made an. Hmm. And, you know, you made a change in their life. And that's sort of what we're trying to do, is it's a, a life changing experience, not only for them, but for the instructors that actually get to see firsthand that they're changing somebody else's life. I mean, it's a rush for, for ev on both ends of the scale.
No, absolutely. That's, that's, that's awesome to hear. Like especially to that. You get to see that as often as you do as well. And the fact it keeps growing even better, like ab Absolutely. What is it that you think maybe makes someone an effective mentor for young people today? What, what do you think gives them that drive?
Joshua Wells: 30:50
You know, it's, it's like I, I think sometimes you don't even know you, you are a mentor until later on down the road. Like, I didn't even realize it, but my, I look up to my first. so much. You know, he taught me almost everything I know about framing and a lot of the construction aspect of it. And I didn't look at him as a mentor until later on in my life when I, I think about it and it was like, man, I was watching him. He taught me everything. And it's like, wow. Like he was, was my mentor and didn't even know it, you know? And I think like taking that into consideration now, it's like if I'm showing somebody how to do so, you know, it's like I'm, I'm mentoring them and it, and it's important. It's that goal to strive to be like that person and then just maybe try to get a little bit better, know a little bit more. Hmm. You know, so I, I think it's a very important aspect in life, like to, to mentor people and in any trade.
Kevin Graham: 31:53
I think a, a mentor, first of all has to be skilled in what, what they're. I think they have to have some passion of what they're doing, and I don't think they'd have to be a teacher. I mean, those are kind of the three qualities I look as a mentor are, are you skilled as a per, as a trades person? Do you have the passion for that trade? And are you a good teacher? Not every tradesman, trades person. Tradeswoman is, is a good teacher. Some are very good at the trade, but that's where they wanna stay. They don't want to have somebody else come in and, and work with them. So do they make a good mentor? No. But if they have that skill and the passion and they're a good teacher, then that's who we're looking at as, as who we want for mentors. And we have both. Josh and I have some great mentors. As our first employers, and that's likely the reason we stuck in the trade so long is because of those people.
Hmm. It's interesting how those people stay with you after all this time. Like for o on my side there's a, an English teacher who's the one who inspired me to get into writing and university. And every now and again, you think back to, oh, if I had, if I hadn't had that lesson, I wonder where I would be today. And it was that exact same thing of staying behind after class to say, that was an amazing lesson. Where can I learn more? right. When you think about, you know, that same thing then happening to you when you get older and as a teacher yourself, like Yeah. Seeing that come background for yourselves is it's nice to see that happening in, you know, more than one place. It's not just the academic side, it's the practical side as well that gets people engaged.
Kevin Graham: 33:22
Several of the instructors we have our our exudes of mine that are now 40 and 50 years old, that are been in the trade since they were 19 or 20, and they've come on now as mentors. For our camp and they make a great mentor cuz they're, they're excited about what they've learned and wanna pass it on.
So yeah, you see that come full circle. That must be amazing. Like seeing, I've had friends who work as teachers and they say when they see their. students from primary school their early years coming back up round and then going into employment or going into jobs. They say it's weird at first cuz it shows you that time has passed. But at the same time, it's nice to see yes, people actually taking what you've taught them and putting it to use as well.
Kevin Graham: 34:01
My mentor is now 91 years old and we still go for coffee. We can, so he, he is a special guy. My first my first journey person that I worked with, have signed my apprenticeship with and we remained friends. although I was fired several times from him, he hired me back every Monday again, and we kept going. So, but he'll laugh about those days.
A bit of a contentious start.
Joshua Wells: 34:24
Yeah, exactly. That's one thing with my mentor as well. Like, I, I quit on him three times, you know, but I was, I think I got into the trades when I was 18 or 19 years old, and I did end up quitting on 'em, but it was always, Try something new. You know, I, I tried get, I went into the sheet metal union. It didn't, wasn't for me. And so I asked if he would take me back and he's like, Joshua, he's like, of course, come on. You know, you start next Monday again. Oh, okay. You know, and I did it again. But he understood that I was always trying to better myself or just try something new out at a young age. You know, when I could, but I never burned that bridge, you know? And him just being a classy, you know, trades person himself, he always, always took me back, which was very, very nice. You know? He wasn't cutthroat. Nope. You quit on me. Goodbye. I don't have no use for you, you know? He always was willing to take you back. So it was, it was a good experience as well.
I suppose that's partly sounds like that's partly what inspired you of the idea of keeping doors open and opening doors for other people that don't burn your bridges either. Cuz what you learned from one skill you can bring into your experiences later, which definitely sounds like that's been the case for yourselves there as well. Is there anything that genuinely surprised you about yourselves as you started these camps because, even after so much experience in the industry and over the years yourselves working in the trades, is this something that you learnt about yourselves, I suppose, stuck out from your experiences here?
Joshua Wells: 35:47
You know what, like, I, I never was like an extremely outgoing person. I, I could talk to people and everything, but didn't realize like how natural it did come and. When people come up to me at the end of the camp, like they have no problems coming up to me and just asking me questions. You know, so, I mean, that, that was something that I've noticed about myself, you know, starting this, and I think it's just made me a genuinely better person, you know, because it's not hard to say hi to somebody or talk to somebody. It's, it's one of the easiest things to do that not enough people. You know, even at the grocery store, like my kids will be in the way. Somebody who's coming with a cart, I'll, I'll, I'll tell 'em. Hey, say, excuse me. Say excuse me. You know, just to get 'em to talk. I'm outta the shell a little bit because that's something that I, that I've learned about myself with this, this job.
Kevin Graham: 36:37
I, I, I look at it as the, the growth that, that, when Josh started, I asked him to do employability skills and I found him all behind the trailer, his knees were shaking, his hands were shaking. I thought he was gonna throw. I go, what are you doing? You just talked to kids about how to be a good employer. Goes, I don't think I can do it. And now you see 'em up there in front of 60 or 80 people and back then camps for 15 or 20 people. So they're much smaller now. He's just a natural. And you hire your other, your students that you had in high school, and you see them at 40 and 50 and you see the maturity. And sometimes I, you just sit back and you think of them as an 18 year old, not a 40 year old. So I, I, I. As you get older in life, you, you appreciate the quality that you see in people and, and how it, how that, the quality that they've learned and gained, they changing the life of others. I think that's kind of the sweet spot that you want to hit at a certain age where you can sit back at the mentor and see people how they've grown and, and expanded in, in their careers and in their dealing with other people and stuff. But I think that's, you don't realize how. how close to home it has, I guess, and how much passion it has and that you have in your heart to see that happening. Because it's, it's, it's overwhelming at times to, to watch the growth of others and, and, you know, at that same time that you're growing because of Yes, just because of the circumstances, you know, like you can't help but grow.
I think that's quite telling there at the start of that question there, Josh, but you, you laughed a little bit because it shows that you've, you're self-aware enough to know that how much you've changed maybe from the, from the start of that journey for yourself as well. And Yes, I, I, I'd be very similar to myself as someone who's not a big public speaker. It's one thing to do a recording like this and you know, I can edit later. change out some bits and pieces, but to go live, that's a, a very different skill and I completely respect. Does that for you as well?
Joshua Wells: 38:34
Another door? Another door.
Indeed. Yeah. Maybe one day we'll see Commusoft live. I don't know. That's amazing. Yeah, and it's always nice to learn something about yourselves in that environment. I think in particular, like it's not, that's the thing of you're not obviously doing it for yourselves, but you can take something away to apply to, you know, you can make that next event you host you put together that little bit better or change something to maybe respond to the next time people come along. Is that something that you've seen even in the two years that you've been running it, that you've like adapted and changed things or have you kept it quite similar the whole time?
Joshua Wells: 39:09
Yeah, it's, it's constantly evolving, you know, we're changing the projects up. Networking is getting bigger as well. Like, I, I never realized, you know, growing up in the trades or at, in my twenties, you know, how big networking is. And with the employers that are coming out you know, and getting these participants to talk to each other, talk to the employers, talk to our instructors, it's the questions that are getting asked, like, Like I said, I just didn't realize how big networking was at our camps and, and it's huge in, in life and I now realize that looking back, that, you know, I never did my first resume until I was like 39 years old. because I didn't have to. And I, now I realize, oh my gosh, I was networking. That's why I never had to do my resume cuz I was constantly, you know, through, through work, you know, meeting people, hi, how are you? And, and everything. And one thing just led into another. So I mean, the camp's definitely, they're, they're always, always changing. You know, the locations are always different. The participants are always different, but in, in all, both in positive ways, you know, and, and, It's never, never a shock, but I mean, every camp gets, it gets bigger. And honestly, it's, it's fun. It, it's not even a job to say, it's, to say the least, you know? And it's like, even with, when I talk to the people about getting into the trades, you know, you're gonna have your bad days. That's what life is. But if you having more, better days than, than bad days, you're, you're doing something right. You're, you're where you belong.
No, that's, that's, that's nice to hear. But it's the, it's not just a, going from like being a bit of a nervous experience, but then it becomes fun and something you can go, this doesn't feel like work anymore. And that's the best kind of reaction you can have of like, your, your job, I'd say. And it's like, I, I do that in quotation marks, with like, your job. It becomes just the, the thing you love doing rather than the thing you have to do. Yes. Would you say that's like the favorite part? Your job not to go back over at those points you've made already, but just that kind of sense of enjoyment that you get from it.
Joshua Wells: 41:11
For me, I love the busyness of it. I'm a, I'm a busy body. Like I don't, I can't, I have a hard time sitting down through a two hour movie, like I'm just anxious. I wanna be doing something productive with, you know, bef Right? I'm 41 years old and, you know, I'm looking back and I, it's like, where, where did the last 20 years? You know, and I know I'll be 50 and then I'll be 60 and looking back, but I, and it's like, where did it go? And I wanna make sure that I'm productive teaching my kids and participants, you know, like to be productive with your lives. You have one round, go through it. You know, so make the best of it. So I I I about this job, I just love the busyness, whether the camps, you know, we have multiple camps in, in a week. There's always, you know, employers coming participant numbers the trades, the projects, everything. It's, it's, I, you don't even have enough time to look at the clock, you know, Hey, before you know it, it's, it's your days end and it's like, oh my gosh. Like, where did the day? You know, and that's, that to me is fun, rather because I've, I've had the job, you know, in the past where it's like, okay, like, is it, is it time to go home yet? And it's, it's, it's not like that at all here, you know? So I love the busyness of it.
Is that similar for your yourself, Kevin?
Kevin Graham: 42:26
Yeah. The, the camps, the growth of the camps have been phenomenal. And, and you said how's it changed? I mean, it's very similar, but it's changed dramatically in the same, in way, I mean, the, the process is similar to from beginning to end, but the pro, but the, the outcome is, I think is we get more comfortable with delivering. The more excited the, the candidates become with participating in the event, it's more comfortable we get, the more benefits they're getting out of the camps and we continuously change curriculum and upgrade it. And where can we make changes? I mean, we're at Camp one 60, I think 1 62. Something around there, and we're still making changes. In hvac, for instance, we're doing some sheet metal with them, which is different than we have done before. Automotive. We're doing different. We've just changed and revamped there. At Camp 1 55, we started making changes with, so there's continuous changes and upgrades and where can we, where can we best meet the needs? And I, I think with each camp, we see how we can meet the needs of the participants more and more. And I think that's what our goal. our goal's gotta be to meet the needs of the participants, like meet them where they're at and then take 'em to the next level. So, and I think that's what we're trying to do with each camp. It's exciting, it's exhilarating it. It's, it's everything that comes into the, the day of. It's a prep time that these six people do in the office that go unnoticed. Quite often the excitement of the camp is the easy part of the day. This, the, the hours and months and weeks to prepare for a camp is what we're the real passion of these people that I have a lot of respect for in the office. Have they prepared for those camps? That's. that's where the rubber meets the road. If they don't over prepare, then when we go out on the road, we're under prepared. So the more they're prepared, the better prepared we are. So, and they're kind of like the, the, the one behind the camera and they're doing all the turning of the knobs and making a thing, move forward it, but with unseen. So when we roll up in the trucks, everything looks like, oh, look how easy this is. But you. Three weeks of prepping for that one day. So I, I give a lot of praise to the people that are in the office that are doing that and doing the multimedia and doing the social media and doing the tv, all that kind of stuff. It's all that goes into making a camp. It's not just that one day event, although that's what it looks like, but it certainly is more than that. So.
No, absolutely. I mean, and it sounds like it is all paying off, not just for yourselves, but for the, the people coming along all that prep and time. And I saw some of the reviews you've had from the apprentices who have come along and, and you can see the gratitude and the, the enjoyment that they're having as well. And I think that's something that being able to share that is inspiring.
Kevin Graham: 45:12
A lot of job, you don't have that opportunity to get instant feedback from people, so it's kind of nice that we do have that opportunity to. And then we can also get feedback that we don't like, that we can make changes and adapt as well.
No, absolutely. Well we're actually coming fairly close to the end of the time here and I do appreciate, cause we've covered a really broad spectrum of the topics, but is there anything that we haven't touched on that you would maybe like the audience to know or anything selves that you'd like to.
Joshua Wells: 45:39
I'd, I'd have to say like one PowerPoint or something. It is, you have to be hungry. If you want to get into, into the trades, you have to be hungry and go get it. You're like, nobody's just gonna give it to you. You have to put your best foot forward. Go get it, and don't take Noah as an answer. You know, if you're persistent enough, eventually you'll get it. I, I I chased my wife for six years, and then finally I stopped marrying her. So I, I was persistent and I wouldn't take no for an answer. and for trades people, it's gotta be the same way.
Kevin Graham: 46:09
Nice. Some of that may border on stalking, but I think as you know, I've been in the skilled trades almost 50 years, so I started when I was 17, 18. I'm 67 now, so, you know, I've made a living from the skilled trades. I've, I've found passion of the skilled trades. I found fulfillment in the skilled trades. I'm a big advocate of people getting into the skilled trades. If not to make money, at least to find out what goes into fixing a motor in a car or fixing something in your house or looking at a furnace and understanding it for HVAC or. Or understanding mill rate, at least understand the process that goes into something. Just that little bit is rewarding. And then to actually do it yourself is another level of re level of rewarding. So I think those are the things that, that after 50 years I take back that it's been, it's, it's gave me a, a, a nice home, a nice vehicle put a son through university. it gave me all the worldly things that I could ask for, but it also gave me fulfillment and gave me something to get up for in the morning that I love to do. And I, and if everybody had that in their job, it'd be a much smoother world that we would live in if, if you could wake up knowing what you wanted to do and excited about going to work. And I, and that passion is still at 67. I'm doing. I'm still loving it. Like I'm still loving each day and I, I still love when you see the passion of somebody else come through and, and you see the light comes on, this is where I wanna do, like, you notice it right away now that this person's gonna make a great tradesperson. So, And I, I, I have nothing bad to say about the trades. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's cold. Yes, it's demanding. Yes, all that. But it's far more rewarding than all those negative things that you hear in the press. The positive outweighs the negative a hundred percent. So I, I would not hesitate on directing anybody into the.
No, that's amazing. I mean, in speaking of directing people towards the skilled trades, if people wanted to find out more information about you, obviously there's links that we'll be able to share and things as well. But where's the best place for people to come to you if they want to get involved and see what's going on?
Kevin Graham: 48:26
I'd go right to the boot camp website two is in the trade bootcamp ca. And, and they'll have a contact there. You can go through and it'll get to Josh and I even. But that's where I would start. And then they can email us there and we can reach out to them.
Amazing. Genuinely, really appreciate all of the insights and information you've given here, guys. It has been an absolute pleasure speaking with you both today. So thank you very much for joining us on the on the podcast.
Kevin Graham: 48:52
Yes. Oh, thank you Rhys. Thank you. And Rhys, we have a spot reserved at any camp you want, so just let us know when you wanna come over
I will do, I'll have a chat with my boss and see when I can get my flight
Kevin Graham: 49:04
Have a good one. Thanks Rhys.
This has been Take Stock, presented by Commusoft. We hope you enjoyed this episode. Be sure to subscribe, leave a review and check out more content on our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and at our website, commusoft.com.