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Apprenticeships are win-win. Just ask Ted and Isaac

November 10, 2021

Millwright apprentice Isaac Fazackerley, left, stands with Ted Rabski, superintendent II, Process, at our Port Colborne Refinery. Photo: Vale Archive

A lifelong interest in mechanics has morphed into a career for Isaac Fazackerley, who is the enthusiastic millwright apprentice at our Port Colborne Refinery in Ontario. This is a new position at the Refinery, and one that is being welcomed by all involved. 

Isaac, a graduate of the Industrial Mechanical Millwright Technician program at Cambrian College, earned a co-op placement at Vale in June 2021, and three months later, he was offered a fulltime apprenticeship position. 

He first heard about our company’s co-op program through a friend who had an apprenticeship at our operations in Sudbury. “Honestly, the way it worked out was a blessing – going to school and coming out with a placement at Vale, and then getting hired fulltime.

“I’ve always been interested in mechanics,” he continued. “It started when I used to race dirt bikes all over Ontario as a kid. Then, after high school I worked at the Honda manufacturing plant and did a lot of maintenance and troubleshooting with the mechanics there.” 

This murder mystery is no game 

Although it sounds like his journey here was a snap, there was a lot of hard work behind the scenes. Isaac was interviewed by three Vale employees for the coveted millwright position, and then, as part of the hiring process, he was asked to participate in a murder mystery before he was offered the job. 

“It wasn’t about solving the mystery. It was all about how the candidates worked collaboratively and solved problems.” 

Isaac’s apprenticeship will last three to five years, depending on how many hours he works. When he gets his required hours, he will write the Red Seal 433A exam and be ticketed to work anywhere in Canada. Currently, he is the only apprentice at Port Colborne and works with a crew of five including Red Seal millwrights and seasoned trades people. 

Learning from the best 

Ted Rabski, a 30-year Vale veteran and the superintendent at Port Colborne, oversees the crews that are involved with mentoring and training Isaac. 

“Isaac has been a breath of fresh air,” said Ted. “The team loves him like he’s their own son – and he in turn is humble and appreciative.

“We have a seasoned bunch of millwrights and trades people here who are invigorated by teaching a young apprentice,” Ted continued. “It’s been great for morale. They have a lot of pride in passing on their experience and they want to see more young people enter the trades.”

Support from Dan Jeanveau in Sudbury 

While Isaac works in Port Colborne he is in regular contact with Sudbury-based Dan Jeanveau, who has been overseeing the co-op program there for many years as the industrial mechanic millwright coordinator. Isaac said both Dan and Tracy Cardinal, Talent Acquisition partner in Human Resources, have been very helpful in supporting him. 

Ted said: “Dan has been working with Isaac and us on our apprenticeship journey. Dan has been great walking us through the process and he checks in regularly with Isaac. We are piggy backing on Sudbury’s apprentice program. We couldn’t do our program without Dan.” 

Meanwhile, Isaac is taking advantage of his time at the Refinery to expand and grow his knowledge of all things mechanical. According to Ted, Isaac has shown initiative by taking on extra projects like maintaining breathing masks in good working order and organizing and cleaning work areas as per Vale’s 5S VPS system.

“I’m really enjoying the whole experience and the people I work with,” said Isaac. “They encourage me, they listen to me and answer my questions. Everyone here wants me to succeed and that’s very gratifying.” 

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