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The Apprentice: Universal Truck and Trailer Investing in Skilled Trades

There is a growing demand for skilled tradespeople across New Brunswick, and Universal Truck and Trailer (UTT) is taking steps to ensure it provides top-tier programming and support for apprentices looking for hands-on training with expert mentors.

The company currently has 10 Apprentice Truck and Transport Service Technicians working in their Dieppe shop, with 7 expected to receive their Apprenticeship and Occupational Certification within the next 2-4 years. 

“I have the opportunity to have so much flexibility and a place to come back to when I finish each block. The program is very hands on and allows me to ask questions without feeling like I’m being a bother,” says El Hadji M. Fam, a Block 3 apprentice with UTT. Speaking of his mentor, he adds, “Keran is always willing to help when I have questions about different jobs I’m working on. He is always around and very helpful, friendly and knowledgeable.”

“Being a mentor is sort of like a mystery box; it forces you to get to know different styles of work and communication. It’s an exciting and challenging journey,” says Keran Valji, a Truck Shop Technician with 10 year’s service and Fam’s mentor. “I’ve learned that there is always a different way of looking at things, and the different perspectives of young technicians means that they often see a different path to fixing the problem…we work together to find the best possible outcome.”

 Jean Marc - UTT Apprentice
 Jean Marc Hebert, first year Apprentice Truck and Transport learns from veteran technicians every day on the job.

Apprenticeship is a long-standing part of New Brunswick’s post-secondary education. A structured training program comprised of 80% applied work and 20% related classroom learning, a successful apprenticeship requires a committed trio of partners: the apprentice, the employer and the government.  

Typically, apprentices receive reduced pay during the classroom portion of their work. However, UTT - along with other JDI businesses – makes up the difference so its apprentices don’t face limiting financial hurdles. 

“Supporting apprentices and mentors is a great business move,” says Don Bonnell, General Manager of UTT. “Our techs have – literally – hundreds of years’ experience between them, so the apprentices are learning from the best, on the front lines. I’ve seen learning go both ways, with the younger workers affecting the way their mentors go about their work. Being involved in training, from the very beginning of the process, gives us an opportunity to instill our shop habits early and improve overall safety. Sponsoring apprentices is an investment in our future as well as theirs.” 

“I would absolutely do it again,” adds Valji, “I have a lot of fun seeing our apprentices grow from their first block to their last. Max and I have a saying that at the end of the day no matter what, the truck [is fixed] and we win." 

J.D. Irving, Limited currently employs 355 active apprentices across its many businesses and will have additional openings in 2019 across NB and NS. For more information, visit