By ALEXANDRIA DEER
Conestoga College is known for many things, one of which is its ability to connect its students with real world learning experiences. Last month, students in the carpentry department at the Waterloo campus had the opportunity to learn from an expert in his field, Jim Caruk.
Caruk, a master contractor with a successful show called Real Reno’s on HGTV and a judge, along with Mike Holmes, on HGTV’s show the Handyman Superstar Challenge, was at the college to give a presentation and take a tour of the campus.
“I don’t believe in luck. I believe in opportunity,” Caruk said. Opportunity presented itself to Caruk in 1973 in the form of an apprenticeship, before he had finished high school. He began his career as a sheet metal apprentice. “Serving that apprenticeship actually got me where I am today. It’s a great experience,” he said.
According to Caruk, he was living every guy’s dream. At 23 he owned a Corvette, a snowmobile and a boat and he was making more money than his dad. He stayed with the company for 15 years, but one day said to himself, “you don’t really want to bang tin for the rest of your life.” Caruk wanted the option of being able to start his own business, so he completed his masters in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) when he was 27.
Caruk didn’t open his own business right away. He got married, started a family and worked many jobs before he started Caruk Group, one of Canada’s most respected custom renovation, home building and consulting brands, according to www.thecaruk
Everybody’s got a dream and everybody’s got a goal. It doesn’t matter what it is, just keep it,” Caruk said. “Sky’s the limit.”
Drew Albrachtas, a first-year carpentry basics student, said, “Jim had a lot of good advice. He said to never get discouraged and I think that is good advice to anyone starting out in the trades.”
While Caruk was touring Conestoga’s Waterloo campus, he asked Doug White, School of Trades and Apprenticeship chair, what made Conestoga better than all the rest.
“I think the three bodies that really make Conestoga the most successful trades school, and very shortly the largest trades school, is primarily our program advisory committee, our staff and faculty and the other thing that makes us No. 1 is senior management,” White said.
Wes Hassard, a level-one general carpentry student, was one of the many students who attended Caruk’s speech. “I think it was good. He had some motivational tips and encouragement. I think the biggest thing that he said that I really caught on to was hiring the homeowner because a lot of times to go into an interview, people say to ask your employer questions but in trades that usually doesn’t happen. I thought that was a neat perspective,” he said.
Nathan Smith, a carpentry instructor at Conestoga’s Doon campus, organized the event. Smith’s goal was to encourage students to continue in the trades.
“To have someone like Mr. Caruk come in and talk to the students is priceless. I was happy with Mr. Caruk’s message about everyone having opportunities in life. It is up to us to choose which opportunity is right for us and to take advantage of those opportunities,” he said. “It is very encouraging to listen to successful people in our trade.”