Yukon produces new batch of certified carpenters

The last time Bill Johnstone sat down in a classroom, it was the 1980s. Going back to school was “no cake walk,” but the Whitehorse resident is one of 10 carpenters who recently obtained their Red Seal certifications.

The last time Bill Johnstone sat down in a classroom, it was the 1980s.

Going back to school was “no cake walk,” but the Whitehorse resident is one of 10 carpenters who recently obtained their Red Seal certifications following an intense six-week program.

It’s the first time the course was offered in the Yukon.

Carpentry is one of 55 trades in the Red Seal program, which represents an inter-provincial standard of excellence in the industry.

Johnstone, 50, said a lot has changed since he first started working as a carpenter in British Columbia.

“For the longest time it really wasn’t that big of a deal if you didn’t have the certification,” he said.

“People were more interested in your work experiences. They’d say ‘OK, what work have you done, show me what you can do.’

“It’s not as important in the residential market, but it really is for the big industrial jobs.”

Johnstone and 12 other carpenters from around the territory took the course on Friday evenings and Saturdays this spring.

The exam covers four years of the apprenticeship program. It’s broken down into six modules, covering topics such as framing, renovations, concrete and common occupational skills.

Johnstone said the hardest part was the math, and the abundance of required readings.

“The way the instructor structured the course, it’s pretty daunting during the first few weekends because we got a lot of readings, it’s heavy on the technical side,” he said.

“He did that deliberately to give everyone the full six weeks to get used to it. I thought, ‘If it keeps up like this, I’ll be in trouble,’ but it got easier.”

Carpenters were required to prove they had worked a minimum of 9,600 hours in the trade in order to take the course.

Richard Dickenson, from Integrated Carpentry Tutorials, offered the course through Yukon’s advanced education branch and in collaboration with the British Columbia Regional Council of Carpenters.

He said the course is as much about introducing new skills as it is brushing up on old ones.

A significant portion of the course is also focused on teaching the students how to take a university-level exam, how to focus on key words and not be misdirected.

“By the second module, these guys were starting to peer mentor each other,” Dickenson said.

“That’s a big deal – you don’t really know how much you know about something until you’re asked to teach it. That just reinforces it for everybody.”

He estimates that approximately 60 to 70 apprentice carpenters are bottlenecked in the four-year apprenticeship program at Yukon College because there aren’t enough Red Seal certified carpenters to sign off on their hours, allowing them to move to the next level.

“This will go a long way towards correcting that.”

Matthew Myres, who does custom home renovations and furniture, wanted to become Red Seal certified so he could take on some of those apprentices in his business.

“Up here there aren’t many self-employed Red Seals,” he said.

“I haven’t been able to apprentice anyone but doing so will allow me to expand my business.”

Jeff Sloychuk, the representative for Local 2499 in Whitehorse, said it’s a program the union had always wanted to offer but never could.

“All these carpenters had worked thousands of hours but had never had the opportunity to get apprenticeship, to get the actual schooling part of the trade,” he said. “There was a huge gap in the ‘80s and ‘90s where the apprenticeship program was in a bit of disarray. From the union’s perspective it’s really important that we keep pushing the boundaries of the trade, and ensuring that we’re providing the best quality carpenters to home owners and employers.”

Sloychuk estimates there are about 100 working carpenters in the territory.

“But we’re looking to double that as we go forward.”

Approximately 30 more uncertified carpenters from across the territory have expressed an interest in taking Dickenson’s course, Sloychuk said, so the union will bring him back in February next year to offer it again.

Contact Myles Dolphin at


Just Posted

Musician aims to help others with release of Yukon Lullaby for Mental Health

Community rallies to release Nicole Edwards’ latest work

Twenty-two people vie to buy two Arkell properties

The lucky winners two now have until May 5 to purchase lots

Conservative Northern Affairs shadow minister visits Whitehorse

Bob Zimmer was in the Yukon to speak to local business groups about the economy and challenges

YESAB extends public comment period for Kudz Ze Kayah mine project

The extension pushes the public comment period far beyond the 60 days provided in YESAB’s own rules

Police shouldn’t use ‘excessive force,’ Bagnell says regarding national resistance to B.C. pipeline

Yukoners have been pressing Bagnell to clarify his position on RCMP action in Wet’suwet’en territory

Yukonomist: Three questions on Yukon Zinc and China

The case heard recently in Yukon Supreme Court is particularly troubling

Commentary: Highway plans will negatively impact safety

The proposed Alaska Highway work will impact our safety, our communities and our environment.

Olivia Webster is the final musher to finish the Yukon Quest

‘I guess I’ve always been a grandpa’s girl and he’s my best friend, so I kind of wanted to be like him and so I did it’

Yukon’s Rob Cooke and company finish 10th in the 2020 Yukon Quest

Cooke and his 14 Siberians crossed the finish line at 9:07 a.m. on Feb. 15 in Whitehorse

Mailbox: Rendezvous and protests

Letters to the editor from Feb. 14

Lights Out Yukon Invitational Basketball Tournament bigger than ever in sixth year

“Honestly, it was the smoothest tournament I think we’ve run yet”

More Yukon Quest mushers reach finish in Whitehorse

Swedish musher Nora Sjalin is this year’s Rookie of the Year Award winner

History Hunter: Will Rogers and Wiley Post: Their historic visit to the Yukon

The story of the American pilot and the film star has a Yukon connection

Most Read