Building Yourself Up One Plank at a Time

Report Regarding Company Integration: Boulot vers

By Raphaël Scali | August 11, 2021

One immediately notices a thin layer of yellowish sawdust, as well as a woody smell upon entering the impressive Boulot vers workshop. It must be said that this socio-professional integration company, located in the heart of the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district, manufactures furniture full time. For 38 years, this organization has been a real springboard for young people wishing to remake themselves or re-enter the labor market. Without its dedicated team, it goes without saying that many young people in Montreal would still be in a precarious situation. We went to discover this amazing company where you can learn, of course, woodworking, but above all, how to build a future.

An inspiring job

In the middle of August, despite the scorching heat and humidity, the Boulot team set about completing the day’s chores. It is 4 pm, and the last broomsticks are given before the cabinetry shop is closed. Young people will be able to take off their safety glasses and go home with their heads held high. A new day awaits these workers who, in the space of a few months, will not only learn to build furniture, but also to heal old wounds.

The person in charge of the intervention, Simon Bolduc, proudly shows us a bed frame designed here; it will soon be delivered to a youth center in the region. “A construction of this kind makes it possible to provide centers which have already housed some young people on the team in the past,” he explains. We quickly understand that working in this workshop is also a way of giving back to the community.

The organization therefore has around 20 trainees aged 16 to 25 who are not stably integrated into the job market. The speaker continues with passion: “Our responsibility is really to welcome these young people and to ensure we work on their socio-professional skills. It’s voluntary here. Cabinetmaking is a guise! The majority of young people do not necessarily end up cabinetmakers … Some perhaps will later carry out another manual trade; others will study philosophy. The goal is to allow some time in their life to regain control, correct past mistakes and look towards the future.”

Throughout the internship, which lasts about six months, each young person will be paid, but will have to find specific objectives, in order to carry out work on themselves. The company is hiring a few office clerks, but mostly apprentice cabinetmakers – both females and males, as well as several trans and non-binary people. Young people at work are followed and supervised by a specialized team of workers, foremen and teachers. Since most have not completed high school, French and math lessons are compulsory, which subsequently allows them to be eligible for vocational training. There is even a kinesiologist who comes twice a week to give sports lessons.

As places are limited, what exactly is the profile sought by the reintegration company? “The young person must have stable housing,” replies Simon Bolduc without hesitation. “We cannot accommodate a young person who is in the street or who is couchsurfing. There are too many risk factors that can defeat them. This is always what we assess in our evaluation criteria. If the young person is not ready, they will be referred to another pre-employability program.”

“Young people who come here sometimes unwittingly use hate speech, or they have a vocabulary that is violent, and they don’t realize it. Our goal is to defuse this kind of discourse and to work with them. It’s not a five-minute meeting that will settle everything for the youngster. The important thing is to follow up.”

Simon Bolduc, in charge of intervention at Boulot vers

A checkered past

So, it’s people like Gauvain that we hire at Boulot vers. At 21, this young Montrealer decided to knock on the organization’s door after having recently experienced moments of impulsiveness, isolation and overconsumption, he explains very frankly.

“Before, I worked nights, weekends, in a convenience store. So, I spent the week at home doing nothing and sleeping all day. The pay wasn’t even good. Plus, there was a curfew … I was on my own all the time. I played video games and consumed a little too much,” he admits. The hardest part for him was to maintain his social relationships. “I was not socially fit to be a good person … because of a background … in which … in which there were fights,” he said with a sigh.

“Hatred is an obstacle. It feeds negative energies, bad thoughts and bad will. I felt too much… With my impulsiveness, it didn’t mix well. It cost me so much work.”

Gauvain, 21 years old, trainee at Boulot vers

Then, one day, things changed for Gauvain. Specifically, when his girlfriend’s mother showed him a stimulating job offer that exactly matched his needs. “I had a pretty unstable situation with my parents, so we had to end the cohabitation […] and my girlfriend’s parents took me in. After a while, I wanted to have a more motivating job, but I didn’t know where to go. On my own, I couldn’t do it. It was my girlfriend’s mother who saw the ad on the Emploi-Québec Website.”

It turns out that this offer allowed him to discover a new passion. In fact, for two months now, Gauvain has been part of the Boulot team and is regaining control. This suits him quite well since his girlfriend – whom he considers to be his greatest confidant – also works in the cabinetmaking industry. The two lovers now have a common passion and projects.

Note that Gauvain also took advantage of his time with the organization to complete certain high school courses. One way to kill two birds with one stone, he admits. Another advantage is that, at work, “you get time to learn,” he adds. “That’s something I love. Here, we show you, we teach you. We’re not going [to piss you off] because you’re in trouble, or just don’t understand.”

And on a personal level, what did he learn? “I am developing good habits for myself. I work on my impulsiveness and learn not to push back. I now take things as they are; not even one day at a time, but one hour at a time. And I catch up on my sleep! Wow, I found out I like sleeping,” he says, laughing gleefully.

What stands out most about Gauvain, besides his imposing size, is his unwavering resilience and wisdom – very impressive for his age. The more you get to know him, the more admiration he has for his quick-wittedness.

Without forgetting Mondays

However, Gauvain’s first few weeks of internship were not all rosy. As the person in charge of the intervention, Simon Bolduc, mentions: “At the beginning, his internship was more difficult, and we almost stopped him”. You have to understand that, at work, if you want to work with wood, a hangover is not an option.

In fact, here when interns make excuses for not showing up on a Monday, a very specific term is used: “Mondays” (lundites)». Because even if the lack of motivation may appear following the weekend, young people must be present and build up consistency if they want to complete their training. In Gauvain’s case, he had been jokingly “diagnosed” with “acute Mondays”.

“I wasn’t able on Mondays. It was at the beginning; I still had my bad habits. I spent my weekends getting drunk. After several times, I was like stop”. I didn’t want to lose [this] job… I didn’t want to find myself at the bottom. He quickly understood the message and lost his bad weekend habits. Since then, Gauvain hasn’t missed a single Monday.

For his part, the social worker explained he has dealt with all types of problem throughout his career. Unfortunately, not all interns manage to complete their internship. Excuses such as: “My dog ate my homework,” he has heard over and over and in all ways. Part of his job is also to deal with certain nervous breakdowns, he says.

Towards a greener future

Despite the obstacles experienced, Gauvain seems delighted with his journey so far and looks to the future. “I have been given many chances in life and I know it. But this one I don’t want to throw away, this is the last one I take,” he admits with emotion.

Simon is also very proud of the interns: “From start to finish, the team accompanies them on their journey here. I see the growth. This is worth my pay. Gauvain has been here for two months, and I would have liked to have had a video of him two months ago. The changes are really noticeable and tangible!”

Regarding change, he admits in passing that reintegrating young people into society is “a form of sustainable development”. The company has also recently implemented certain environmental measures: recovery of wood scraps, networking with other companies to limit the loss of wood and sorting of food waste from the cafeteria. A sustainable development committee, led in large part by some young people from the company, looks after these initiatives, explains Simon. He says this tip is a good way to introduce trainees to the environment, emphasizing that going green isn’t just about sorting out your waste.

And what exactly are Gauvain’s future plans? “Not living in Montreal,” he replies quite simply. That way he could get closer to a more wooded area, to nature, he admits. One of his dreams would be to continue his education and enter a cabinetmaking or carpentry program, in order to someday work with his girlfriend. Both would like to have their own company, as well as their woodlot. The intern also juggles the idea of pursuing higher education, either in archeology, anthropology or marine biology. “Keeping in touch with nature and a lot of study, I would like that,” he adds.

Like a tree that can take root for tens or even hundreds of years, this apprentice cabinetmaker still has time before him to reach his full potential. He says it so well himself: “Often with time, you get the best result.”

In other words, sometimes you have to let nature take its course. And this is what we wish for the team at Boulot vers: continue their mission for several more generations of trees.

For more information on Boulot vers, visit the website:

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