Faculty of Applied Science & Technology
Degree: Construction and Maintenance Electrician
Year of graduation: 2012
As James Haines looked out the window of his small charter plane as it landed in the remote Wood Buffalo region of Alberta in May 2014, he remembers thinking to himself: What have I gotten myself into?
“I had just flown in from Toronto where it was sunny and really nice out, and then I got to Alberta and it was snowing in May,” he laughs. On site for a three-month contract as an electrical lead with a new type of refinery with the Husky Sunrise Project for Husky Energy, Haines ended up staying a year at the camp, doing 12 hour days for a 21/10 cycle (21 days at work and 10 off). The unique combination of being isolated in an out-of-the-way location, but with over 1,000 people on site, gave Haines a valuable perspective on self-sufficiency and the importance of keeping an open mind — a lifelong lesson that began before he came to Sheridan.
“One of the skills of being an electrician is being adaptable,” he says. “It’s important not to get too stressed about something new — you have to step back and look at things in a different way. You’d be surprised at how many decisions you have to make and stick to, and how you have to learn to figure out stuff by yourself, because a lot of the time, you may not have someone to ask.”
Growing up in Caledon, Ontario, Haines was drawn to the idea of a skilled trade rather than university education due to the opportunities it offered. “I wanted a job that would pay well and lead into other opportunities,” he says.
Like many new students, his first day at Sheridan College was a bit overwhelming. “I wasn’t sure about the theoretical classes, but when I went into the shop class and started hammering out projects, I knew this was the right place,” he says. “The hands on elements were really important to me, and I found it really interesting to see how things came together. The professors could give real-life stories about the things they were doing in class.”
Enrolled in Sheridan’s pre-apprenticeship program, Haines was an apprentice at Bolton Electric until 2013, when he wrote his certificate of qualification to become a journeyman. “I liked the variety and the ability to experience working on, and troubleshooting, different areas, such as residential, commercial and industrial,” he says. “You could be working on everything from seniors’ homes to factories.”
After completing his apprenticeship and working at the Husky Sunrise site in Alberta, Haines began working as service and lead hand at Arthur Electric in Milton, Ontario, where he works today. Along with the installation, maintenance and troubleshooting aspects of his job, Haines now supervises apprenticeships and journeymen.
He draws on his hard-won experience to advise his colleagues, and others looking to enter a skilled trade, about the need for perseverance in a challenging and ever-changing field. “There’s going to be a lot of times when you feel discouraged or feel like quitting, but it comes down to your attitude and how you approach it,” he says. “Just keep plugging at it and you’ll be OK.”