The life of Brian – from drifter to certified success


“You’ve got to have purpose; some kind of commitment to something bigger than yourself.”

BrianBrian has worked for the same Winnipeg construction company for nine years. He’s moved up the ladder from general laborer, to certified carpenter, to project manager and estimator. It’s a long way from the decades he spent drifting from one low-paying job to another, with no benefits, no stability, and no way to plan for the future.

Brian says the difference lies in the fact that his current employer is a social enterprise and United Way agency partner that aims to provide quality employment, training, better-than-average wages and benefits for Winnipeggers in low-income situations.

Employees have an opportunity to learn a trade and earn certification that can lay the groundwork for meaningful employment and a lifetime of financial stability. It’s a level of training and mentorship that may not be available in a more traditional business setting where time is money and success is measured by profitability alone.

Brian is the first of almost 200 employees to complete all the apprenticeship programs and work his way up to management. In 2009, he was nominated for Journeyman of the Year. “I’ve met good people here. It’s a family. It’s connected us,” he says.

Now, he’s set his sights on helping co-workers follow his lead. “I’d like to mentor our young guys to stick around and take over…finish their math skills and work toward apprenticeship so they can increase their pay scales and support themselves and raise families and not have to feel repressed by poverty.”

It’s exactly that kind of support for one another that will continue to build stability in our community, he says. It’s also the reason United Way invests in social enterprises and other strategies that provide Winnipeggers like Brian with the tools to move from poverty to possibility.