New Brunswick

Newcomers get English classes — and hands-on training as bricklayers

Six newcomers completed their first job placements this week as part of a training program sponsored designed to teach them the bricklaying trade, and improve their English, so they can find employment in the construction industry.

6 graduate from work placement leg of provincial program designed to get them jobs in construction

Bricklayer apprentice Ahmed Chachlid mixes mortar. (Catherine Harrop/CBC )

Syrian Amer Aboo came to Canada in the winter of 2016 to build a new life for himself.

Now he's building walls.  

Aboo is one of six newcomers to complete their first job placements as part of a Fredericton-area training program sponsored by the province.

It it designed to teach them the bricklaying trade so they can find employment in the construction industry.

The program is the result of a partnership between the Department of Post-Secondary Training and Labour, the New Brunswick Community College and the Multicultural Association of Fredericton.

Aboo did masonry work in Syria but with stones and blocks, not bricks.

"It's the first time I use a four-foot level," he said. 

Language training with work experience 

Although Aboo has work skills, bricklayer certification in New Brunswick requires proficiency in English.

In addition to giving participants hands-on training, the program also has a language component to bring newcomers like Aboo up to speed.

Andrew Forest, the manager of Goodine Masonry and a certified mason, hired both Aboo and Ahmed Chachild.

"They're very hard workers, right from the star," he said. "They were just go-getters, and I've been happy to have them.

"Actually, Amer picked up the trowel first thing, and we gave him a chance, and he's been amazing."

Apprentice Amer Aboo gets ready to lay down a brick.

Forest said the program is helping his company grow.

"We couldn't grow as a company without the bricklayers," he said. "You might have the work, but without the bricklayers, you can't do it. So that helped us."

The province says participants were recently tested for their language proficiency, and all have gone up a level.

But there were still some awkward moments on the job site at the beginning of the summer.  

"Ahmed, especially, would nod his head 'yes', when he didn't understand what you were saying at all," Forest said.

Six newcomers completed their first job placements this week as part of a training program sponsored designed to teach them the bricklaying trade, and improve their English, so they can find employment in the construction industry. 0:34

"Once we got by that it was a little better."

"But now's OK," Chachild added.

"Because we use the word every day. Like 'shovel', 'mortar', 'stone.'"  

Program participants completed their first classroom placement in the spring.

Now that their four-month work placement is behind them, they will head back to the classroom for the next phase of the program.

Saint John could be next 

New Brunswick is now seeing interest from other provinces that want to copy the program because language barriers are a problem in many jurisdictions with apprenticeship programs, said Lori Leach of the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour.

"We see an influx of newcomers, which is fantastic for all the provinces, and we also see the language issue and the barriers that policies are providing currently," said Leach, the strategic initiatives manager for apprenticeship and occupational certification.

The province is hoping to expand the program to Saint John next, she said. 

With files from Catherine Harrop