Deaf apprentice overcomes barriers and achieves Red Seal

Arnav Vijh's apprenticeship pathway was more challenging than most: he has profound hearing loss.

“Follow your passion. You have to work hard, be patient, and never give up.” 

That’s what Arnav Vijh said, and that’s exactly what he did as he embarked on his apprenticeship journey to become a sprinkler fitter. His pathway was more challenging than most: Arnav has profound hearing loss. 

After taking a piping foundation course at BCIT, he decided he liked sprinkler fitting the best and enrolled in Pacific Vocational College (PVC) for his technical training. But with his hearing loss, he had a hard time following along. He wears hearing aids, but they are effective only if people face him and speak at a slow pace. He knew he needed help to get through the program.

“The biggest challenge was arranging an ASL [American Sign Language] interpreter for my classes,” Arnav said. 

He contacted Provincial Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services, who connected him with WorkBC, Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility, and Industry Training Authority (ITA) to provide financial assistance for ASL interpreters. Wavefront Centre also provided Arnav with a hearing aid and wireless hearing system, which enhances communication for him in the workplace and enables him to continue his success as a sprinkler fitter. This was truly a partnership among community, business, and training to improve accessibility for a student pursuing higher education and a meaningful career.

“Pacific Vocational College is proud of our inclusive programs, and we happily accommodated interpreters in our classroom to assist Arnav with his technical training,” said Jennifer Bradbury, Director of Training at PVC. “Arnav seamlessly integrated with his cohort, and we are extremely pleased to have participated in Arnav’s success.”

Arnav works at Hydroworks Contracting, a fire protection and waterworks company. “I enjoy that it’s a very hands-on job,” he said. “I get to see the building being constructed from the very beginning. I like being a part of that kind of project from start to finish.”

Hydroworks has supported Arnav throughout his apprenticeship journey and provided him with a variety of opportunities to sharpen his skills.

“We had him work on numerous projects varying in size and complexity in order to ensure his onsite training was well-rounded and diverse,” said Renzo Ardizzoni, Project Manager at Hydroworks. “We also ensured he worked with a variety of foremen who had different knowledge and varying techniques to teach him in the sprinkler fitting trade.”

Renzo added that Arnav was able to overcome most challenges related to his hearing loss on his own with perseverance and an eagerness to learn. In situations with excessive construction noise, the foreman would find a quieter place, such as a mechanical or storage room, to review plans and provide instructions to apprentices on the work required. 

Arnav’s apprenticeship came to a close this summer as he earned his Red Seal as a sprinkler fitter. 

“Getting a Red Seal in my trade is my biggest accomplishment,” he said. 

“In his four years with us, we have seen Arnav transition from an eager, young apprentice to a confident Red Seal Sprinkler Fitter, who has become a great addition to our team,” said Renzo. “As a reliable employee with a valuable skillset, he has become a benefit to our company. He can now start training other apprentices who will be our future Red Seal sprinkler fitters.”

“ITA is very proud of Arnav’s achievement and perseverance to complete his program, and we’re proud to be part of his apprenticeship journey,” said Paulette Higgins, Director of Training Investment at ITA. “Our role is to work with our partners to create an accessible and inclusive training and apprenticeship system in B.C. Apprentices are an integral part of our labour force, and they deserve supports and acceptance in their learning and work environments without biases based on differences of any kind.”

Arnav hopes to become a fire inspector in the future. The doors are definitely open for him.

“People from different cultures are working in trades as one team, and that makes for a good working environment,” said Arnav. “Being a deaf person working in any trade isn’t easy, but I’ve worked very hard to be where I am now.”

International Week of the Deaf is September 22-28, 2019 and is celebrated through various activities by deaf communities worldwide, calling for participation and involvement of various stakeholders including families, peers, governmental bodies, and professional sign language interpreters.

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