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Quality housing can be a challenge to find in an era where interest in the skilled trades is dwindling and poor craftsmanship is running rampant. This is why Mike Holmes exists. He's the burly, no BS contractor, philathropist, and TV star who's using his heavily viewed platform to turn an industry around — before it's too late.

“Let us remove this bad name of contracting being a lousy job – it’s not,” debates Holmes.  “I build the hospitals that the doctor works in, I build the house that he sleeps in and I can design it and complete everything... It’s not that you’re trying to be as good or better than anyone else, but that this is an opportunity.”

It’s an opportunity that The Holmes Foundation (THF) would like to offer to as many up and coming trades people as possible. Currently, THF grants 10 annual $1,500 scholarships, an additional 10 annual $1,500 bursaries, as well as employer incentive opportunities to companies that take on an apprentice.

The main mission of THF is to raise awareness and offer guidance to future generations that are interested in getting involved in the skilled trades, and doing a job right the first time around. This is critical because, as Holmes notes, government statistics indicate that “we’re going to be short like a half a million to a million skilled trade workers in the next 10 years” largely because of those approaching retirement age and elder statesmen of the industry who only present the negative side of the job.

What makes Holmes the ideal advocate for the industry is the knowledge and values that were passed onto him by his construction minded father.  By age six Holmes had done his first electrical job and by 12 he had completed an entire basement – by 19 he was given his first crew.

“He was a jack of all trades, but master of none – I thought he was superman,” says Holmes about his father James.  “I was 21 when I did my first $52,000 bathroom which I designed and completed.  I brought him in to see it and that’s when he gave me sh*t.  I went, ‘What do you mean?’  That’s how proud of me he was – he was swearing at me.  I said ‘Dad, you could do this in your sleep.’  He said, ‘No I can’t.  You have taken this so far beyond me.’  That’s when I knew my dad was really proud of me – kind of put a lump in my throat.”

Beyond the technical advice his father gave, Holmes was also taught the importance of professional integrity: don’t screw people, it’s not about the money, and only be as good as your word.  With such ideals in mind, Holmes went out and started building incessantly, eventually catching the eye of TV executives.

“From day one, I didn’t want to be on TV.  I’ll be honest, I said ‘No,’ and I gave them an idea and told them to run with it,” recalls Holmes.  “They kept pushing me and how they got me was, ‘You like to educate one family at a time?’  And I said ‘yes.’  And they said, ‘How would you like to educate everyone at once?’”

That was the offer Holmes couldn’t refuse.  His contracting show Holmes on Homes became a massive global hit and allowed audiences to learn about the good, the bad, and the ugly of renovating and homemaking.  Through his work on television, Holmes saw the scope and effects of inexcusably incompetent renovations: lost savings, broken marriages, and dangerous living conditions. It was too much for one contractor.  Out of that came The Holmes Foundation with a mission to encourage young people to study and pursue a career in trades.

And there are plenty of educational trade programs across Canada.  Several post-secondary outlets offer courses like Building Construction, Masonry, Advanced Housing, Roofing, Ironworker and Construction Engineering Technology.  As Holmes indicates though, the time to get into these courses is now.

“This is never going to stop.  Not only do we have a billion homes out there that need to be fixed, but we’re going to build more.  This is one of the biggest opportunities you can ever get into, and why wouldn’t you when the demand is so high?” asks Holmes.

“If you have integrity and you love doing things right, this is an awesome opportunity,” he continues.  “After doing two to three hundred bathrooms and additions and houses, it’s a wonderful feeling to know that I have made a difference and I have done something with what I know and I’m getting better at it.  I think the self-satisfaction is huge.”  jp

Photos: Jeng_Niamwhan/Thinkstock