Victoria’s Brandon Graham has always liked the creativity of working with wood. From the beautiful wooden bowl expertly turned on the school lathe to the large garden sheds he and his fellow Victoria High School students help build for neighbours, Graham found his calling early.
The Grade 12 student looks ahead to entering Camosun College’s carpenter program this spring and he’ll do it armed with the Victoria Residential Builders Association’s Herman Rebneris Student Carpentry Award, presented during the recent 2014 CARE Awards gala at the Fairmont Empress Hotel.
The $500 award recognizes the commitment made by those learning the carpentry trade with a gift certificate toward “the tools of the trade.”
Herman Rebneris was a respected member of VRBA and a strong advocate of education and training, skilled trades and student participation in the residential construction industry.
“As a student, Brandon has demonstrated commitment to the carpentry industry, his school and community. He’s an honour roll student and is already mentoring other kids in the trades, so he really exemplifies all the attributes we’re looking for in young people entering the trades,” said Casey Edge, VRBA executive director.
Graham is a member of his school’s concert band, has volunteered his time and skills to school projects, such as creating compost bins for the gardening club, and has supported younger students at neighbourhood schools.
“This was a great opportunity for me to share my working knowledge of the carpentry and trades programs and what they can offer to these future students,” he told the CARE Awards judges.
In addition to receiving Vic High’s Tech Ed Award as top student in 2011 and 2012, Graham also received a Citizenship Award in 2013, and is a regular member of the Vic High Honour Roll.
Through his studies at Camosun, Graham aims to become a certified carpenter with a specialty in residential construction, additions and renovations.
He comes by his passion honestly, learning from the ground up in his father’s construction company, with projects that have included a Gold CARE Award-winning heritage home. “This was my fourth summer working with him,” Graham said.
The award still came as a shock to the affable teen. “I’m still a bit speechless; I had no clue until they said my name,” he said, recognizing the importance of mentors like his parents and woodworking teacher Stewart Wheeler in helping him achieve his success.
In addition to essentials like woodshop and site safety, plus skills like framing, exterior finishing and the proper use of tools, he has learned to see the full scope of a project, to see and anticipate the steps needed from start to finish.
“I like how (Mr. Wheeler) explains things and how he’s very good at detailing the steps in a clear way, in a way anyone can understand it,” Graham said. “He finds different ways to teach each student. I’m a very hands-on learner, which is why I like the trades.”
While Graham looks forward to exploring the finishing and millwork side of his carpentry skills, he approaches his future career with a broad grounding in the home-building industry and a good idea of what he likes and enjoys.
Like his parents, “I’m more of a fan of heritage design and the Craftsman style, so I guess I’m kind of following in (my dad’s) footsteps,” he reflected.