Peter Burning, retired journeyperson painter and decoratorPeter Burning, retired journeyperson painter and decorator

Six Nations of the Grand River, ON

Peter Burning

Retired journeyperson painter and decorator Peter Burning started out in the trade by chance. As a young man, Peter wanted a career that would be as challenging as it was rewarding. Inspired by the long history of ironwork within his native Six Nations of the Grand River, he travelled to nearby St. Catharines in his early twenties, hoping to find a job as an ironworker on the St. Catharines Skyway. But when he arrived, he discovered that all of the ironworker positions had been filled. Fortunately for Peter, the site supervisor got him a job as a painter and decorator on the project.

Now 67, Peter has no regrets about not becoming an ironworker—he loves painting and decorating too much. “I enjoyed it from the first day I started,” he says. “If you’re a painter, you stay busy all day. It’s a lot of work, but the days go by quickly.”

When Peter started out in the industry, there was no formal painter and decorator apprenticeship program in place. He earned his journeyperson ticket on the job, working on projects such as the Bethlehem Steel Plant in Bethlehem, New York, and the Burlington Bay James N. Allan Skyway between Hamilton and Burlington.

When the painter and decorator apprenticeship program was introduced a few years later, Peter welcomed the opportunity to help train a new generation of workers. “I found it a lot of fun working with the apprentices, training the younger guys,” he says.

In fact, Peter was so impressed with the program that he recommended it to his son-in-law, David. While working on the Hamilton Steel Mill nearly twenty years ago, Peter heard that his supervisor was looking for an apprentice painter and decorator. Peter helped his son-in-law secure the position, and David has been working in the trade ever since.

Now retired after over forty years in the industry, Peter is enjoying the benefits of his trade almost as much as when he was still in the workforce. Not only is the pension generous, he says, but he can apply his skills to help family and friends. “Right now, I’m painting the bedroom over at my daughter’s house, getting it ready for my granddaughter,” he says. “The skills you learn in construction stay with you your whole life.”