A businessman at heart, Harmanjeet knew early on that his future was in Canada. Though he held a Bachelor of Arts degree in India, he chose to learn a trade – welding – for better success abroad.
Soon after obtaining his certification, Harmanjeet got a job as a welder and gained valuable experience. “After two years, I started my own business doing general welding work. I lived in an agricultural area, so I was building agricultural implements,” he says.
After five years, Harmanjeet sold his business in India and made the move to Canada with his wife and child. He arrived in Delta, British Columbia, as a permanent resident in 2014.
Choosing Delta as his new home was easy: Harmanjeet had close relatives there, and the thought of being surrounded by them made him happy. Not only did Harmanjeet’s relatives offer his family much support, they also invited them to live in their house while they got settled in their new community.
Fifteen days after arriving in Canada, Harmanjeet got his first job in a truck trailer repair shop doing mechanical work and some welding. Although he was working full-time, the position did not pay well. So, he left the job two-and-a-half months later and started working in a food warehouse instead. “I was making good money,” says Harmanjeet. “But it was a non-skilled job. I wasn’t working in my field.”
Still looking for a welding opportunity, Harmanjeet and his family moved to Edmonton, Alberta in 2015. His cousin lived there and told him there were good jobs for welders in Edmonton. Luckily, a compatriot who repaired dump trucks needed assistance and offered him a job as a welder.
With excellent experience in welding, his certification from India and a bachelor’s degree, Harmanjeet began to feel as though he could be earning better pay. When he approached his boss with this concern, Harmanjeet’s employer told him that he needed a welding certification from Canada. Harmanjeet began looking for a new job, but found that any jobs he wished to apply for also required a Canadian certification.
One day, while sharing his job frustrations with a friend, Harmanjeet learned that any experience tradesperson can challenge the Red Seal Exam. Passing the examination meant receiving a Red Seal endorsement on his trade certificate, which could be very helpful in obtaining gainful employment.
Harmanjeet decided to apply for the Red Seal Exam through the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board. He learned that as an experienced tradesperson, he would be assessed by his work experience, skills and knowledge against the standards for certification in his trade.
Harmanjeet applied online and was approved to write the Red Seal Exam. His goal was to pass both the theoretical and practical components on his first attempt. He knew he needed to prepare by taking some classes. However, paying for them was going to be challenging.
“I was desperate to get my trade certificate, but I needed money for that. I had to pay about $8,000 for classes, fees and supplies. I felt sad. I didn’t have that much spare money,” he says. “I received a Windmill Microlending flyer at the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board office. Windmill is wonderful. I applied for the loan, got approved and received the money.”
For three months, Harmanjeet took two preparation courses at a local welding college. “The practical course was important to me because I needed to understand how the Canadian standards worked. I had ten years of welding experience in India, but there’s a huge difference between both countries. The theory is the same; the technique is different.” Harmanjeet learned four different welding techniques in Canada – quite a difference from the basic welding he had been doing in India.
Harmanjeet passed both exams in his first attempt in 2016 and received a Red Seal endorsement and his Canadian trade certificate in 2017. Soon after, he moved back to Delta. Three months later, he got an excellent job as a welder in a large company constructing barrels for gas tanks.
Being the hard-working tradesperson he is, Harmanjeet started a part-time job during the weekends as a welder and millwright helper in a mill. A year-and-a-half into his second job, he was offered a full-time position as a millwright. He was ecstatic. “Now I’m in a new trade,” says Harmanjeet.
Although he now needs to obtain a millwright trade certificate, he got this job because his employer was satisfied with his skills and knowledge. They already registered him as an apprentice, which means that in addition to the work experience he’s gaining, he’ll need to complete eight weeks of technical training each year, for four years.
“Right now, I’m on the next part of my journey. I have a better job, and I bought a house. Everything is going smoothly and according to plan,” says Harmanjeet proudly. “I’m really thankful to Windmill. They helped me in a big way. I’m very happy.”
Harmanjeet’s advice to others is: “When I was home, I thought my Indian work experience and certification were going to be enough to get a good job in Canada, but it doesn’t work that way. If you want to succeed here, you need a certification. Without it, you’re going to be underpaid.”