Skilled trades career offers second chance

Lenard Monkman believes the skilled trades gave him a second chance in life after the challenges he faced through much of his childhood. “I was raised in the North End and grew up on welfare,” he says. “Growing up, I felt the odds were stacked against me.”
With a lot of hard work and determination, Monkman graduated from high school and began studying political sciences at the University of Winnipeg. The first few years of university proved to be difficult and Monkman recalls losing his focus along the way.
“Unfortunately, I started going down a path I tried to avoid my whole life,” he says. “My bad decisions finally caught up with me and so did the law.”
With his hopes for a successful career waning, Monkman felt defeated. During this time, he also found out he had a child on the way. “I didn’t want to be like my own father; I knew my child would need a positive influence in his or her life.”
It was at this point Monkman made a decision to turn his life around and started working for a family friend in the flooring business. “The company I worked for gave me a chance, but I still had to prove myself.”
Life lessons
Monkman attributes learning some important life lessons to his work as a skilled labourer. “I learned the meaning of discipline very fast when I first started the job,” he explains, adding that having to get up every day and show up on time for his job taught him the value of being dependable. “I didn’t know the importance of reliability until I started working full-time.”
While he concedes that his job isn’t always easy, Monkman believes hard work is therapeutic. “Knowing all the work that went into a project from beginning to end, and seeing the completed project, is a huge accomplishment. The sense of pride from completing these projects has kept me interested in working in the skilled trades.”
Historical teaching form
Monkman believes that apprenticeship training is a great fit for many people. He compares the method of learning to Indigenous teachings. “An apprenticeship is based on mentorship-based learning from an ‘elder.’ This form of teaching is historical and needs to be promoted.”
He credits the person who trained him for helping him to turn his life around. “Everyone has to start from the bottom and needs someone to give them a chance.”
He explains that his supervisor wasn’t just his boss but also a mentor who believed in him. “Growing up, I didn’t have these positives influences,” he says.
Trades qualification
Monkman didn’t believe he would become a career tradesperson. However, after working for five years in his trade, he believes he can use his story to bring about positive change in his community. He is currently working toward obtaining his Red Seal Certificate of Qualification through the trades qualification process and wants to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of floorcovering installers.
Trades qualification is a process for experienced tradespersons to apply to challenge the certification examination in their trade. Being certified can open up many opportunities and avenues for your career. If you are interested in more information about the apprenticeship and certification system, including the trades qualification process, please visit
-Apprenticeship Manitoba

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