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Q&A with Alodia Ina Calixto

Welcome to our new Q&A series, where we interview staff, trainees, and community partners for a deeper look into Building Up’s journey. This week, we interviewed Alodia, a trainee currently completing Building Up’s pre-apprenticeship program..

Tell me about yourself!

I was born in the Philippines. Before I came here, I was a third-year student studying Industrial Engineering. When I came here 4 years ago, I was pregnant. So I need to fast track studying so that I can find a job for my son. Since I’m not confident with my English, I was having trouble finding medical technician jobs. I got frustrated, I got three interviews, but no one called me back. So I’m thinking to myself, is this really for me? Is this really what I want? If I continue with this, will I be happy and successful with this?

I realized, I don’t want to be in the medical field. I want to be in construction. But I was hesitant at first because I know it’s a male dominated job. I’m a woman. I didn’t know if I could really work in construction because I didn’t see many women working in construction. One time I went to Scarborough, and my Uber driver, like out of nowhere, I asked him, “Is this your permanent job? Are you a Uber driver full time? ” He says, no, I’m in construction. He’s in the local 721 ironworker. I asked him, “Do you see women in construction? Because I don’t see many?” He told me “It’s different now because now they treat women and men equally.” And confession: The work is hard. I didn’t know if someone with my build could do it. But he said, no people there will help you. If you need to lift something, they will help you. And also nowadays some machines can carry it for you. So that’s when it started. He gave me the number in local 721 and he says, Oh, tell them my name and that you talked to me. He turned out to be a foreman! Yeah. I did my research though. Ironwork is the bars on the roadways, it’s not for me. So I also looked at the apprenticeship program.

How did you find out about Building Up?

I didn’t know how to apply for an apprenticeship. That’s the reason why I went to the website, and I searched for construction training. I didn’t really want to go back to school because it’s a lot of money. I still have my loan from the past medical program that I attended. I didn’t want to burden myself with loans. So I was in Ontario Works before. So that’s why my laptop shows Ontario Works first, and I saw construction training for youth and I’m still youth. So I saw Building Up, I looked at the website, I read everything. I thought, “Oh, this is so interesting. And you get paid while you’re doing your program. So I thought it was so good! So I applied, and then they called me. Before I did my interview, I did my research, because that’s what you do before your interview. You do your research. I viewed all the videos on the website, all the inspirational videos. I found out who the founder was and learned about the team. And then when I did my interview, all of the research that I did wasn’t there! They asked me different questions, but I’m so glad because they asked me questions about my experience! Since this is what I want to do, my answer came so easily. You know, when you do your research, you’re memorizing all the words that you wanted to answer in an interview. But this one is different. It’s all my experience that I’m sharing with them, so it was easy!

Do you have any advice for someone who was going to start the program? What should they be preparing for, and what should their outlook be like?

My advice is don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of challenges and don’t be hesitant to ask questions. People will help you in the ways that they can, especially if they see that you’re interested in what you’re doing. If this really is your passion, be open-minded. Before, I only wanted to be an electrician. That’s all I was thinking about. But now since I’ve done my training with Josh, he taught us so well. I didn’t know carpentry was that easy! I was so afraid to hold a hammer. The hammer that we use is a big one, it’s bigger than my arms! But he taught us how to handle it, how to hold it properly. It was so easy! I realized, oh, so you need the techniques so that you won’t get hurt and you can do the nailings properly.

You always felt safe?

Yeah, definitely. They make sure that you’re safe on-site. They gave you all the things that you need, like gloves, your safety glasses, your safety hat. I think that’s the important part because you’ll be comfortable with what you’re doing. Even though it’s hard, if you know you’re safe, you’ll be comfortable. So yeah, definitely.

What do you think the biggest challenge was during the program?

My biggest challenge is because it’s a physical labor job, my body wasn’t used to it. I’m working all day, it drains me out. But after a week after a week of doing everything I get used to it. I just needed to change my lifestyle. I have to sleep early so that I will have that energy, I need to eat too. That’s the biggest challenge that I experienced.

 Is there anything else you wanted to say or talk about?

My mom and I are talking, about my classmates that experienced barriers in life, and she asked me, what is your barrier? So I asked myself, what is my barrier in life? For me, it’s my communication skills. And looking at the program, most of them are men and no Asian people like me. We’re all different, yet we’re all experiencing barriers. I feel like Building Up is welcoming everyone who’s experiencing those barriers, even less simple barriers in life than mine. They will accept you if they see potential in you. If they see that you’re into it, and you’re willing to do it. For me, when I did my interview, I just said, my experience is just here at home, doing my Ikea furniture. That’s all I did! But I think they saw in me my perseverance and that I wanted to be in the program. I think every employer if they see you persevere, they’ll hire you.

About the author

About Us

Based on successful non-profit social enterprise models across the country, Building Up was developed in Toronto to improve our city’s environmental efficiency, affordable housing stock, and most of all – to create a real pathway for individuals experiencing barriers to enter apprenticeships and careers in the trades. Check out our blog for news, updates, job opportunities, and more!

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