When Tudor Toropoc immigrated to Canada, all of his accomplishments fell by the wayside.
"Employment offices were saying, 'No, you don't have a chance,' companies were saying, 'No, you don't have a chance,'" Toropoc recalls. "It was a catch-22."
Toropoc began his career as an electrician at 14 when he applied to an industrial high school specially geared towards the trades in his native Romania. Within four years he had graduated with the country's equivalent of a Class B, Level 4 electrician certificate.
He had always gravitated toward all things electrical, tinkering with and dismantling his electronics. "I always used to take things apart just for curiosity's sake." By age 10 he was using his pocket money to buy parts for building radio transmitters and amplifiers.
After graduating, he was quickly hired by a company doing maintenance and residential wiring for two years before moving on to work in the seaports.
Along with his budding career, Toropoc also had a budding romance with Breanna, a Canadian woman involved in the building where he had been doing electrical work. The two married and came to Canada, thinking his education and experience would win him similar success in the Great White North.
"Once I came to Canada they told me everything I had -- my education and my experience -- meant nothing," Toropoc said.
"This one woman told me, 'It's no personal offence to you, but all of your diplomas and all of these papers you are showing me, they are not worth more than that blue recycling bin there.' "
Finally, after countless disappointing interviews, Toropoc was told he needed to get a job with an electrical contractor, even if it was stocking materials in a warehouse, to get his foot in the door so he would have the right to apply for an apprenticeship.
"The problem was nobody would hire me," he said, adding he took a job working as a mechanic to beef up his Canadian resume while applying at electrical companies.
"For three months I was forwarding e-mails every day and never getting a reply," he said. We're talking 2003, 2004, so the economy at that time was red hot. I couldn't understand for the life of me why a young, qualified person who has legal landed status and wants to work isn't given a chance."
When his e-mails went unanswered, he started phoning daily, then faxing his resume up to 20 times daily to the same companies. His persistence paid off, and a company finally hired him.
Two years later, he was running his own crews while starting his electrical training at the B.C. Institute of Technology.
Toropoc has since moved on to Bridge Electric where, just a few months into the job, he ran the company's entire crew, organizing all the logistics of the manpower and materials, at three buildings simultaneously. They even finished the project ahead of schedule.
"The opportunities have skyrocketed for me. I have been challenged with circumstances that even people with years and years of experience have a hard time coping with," he said. "Once I was given a chance, I was so determined to prove everyone wrong that there was no stopping me."
Name: Tudor Toropoc.
Category: Immigrant Tradesperson.
Town: Burnaby (Romania, 2003).
Trade: Electrician (Level 4 Apprentice).
Employer: Bridge Electric.
Years in trade: Nine.
Education: Romania, BCIT.
Why would someone want to be an electrician? "Whether it's logistics, whether it's understanding how the physics work in a very complicated distribution system, you're always thinking."
Why did the judges choose him to win? He has elected to do formal training in B.C. when he probably already had the skills to do the job. He had many challenges from employers, yet he persevered.
Why did you nominate Tudor for this award? He really stands out as somebody who has worked really hard to get where he is, as someone who is new to the country and faced a lot of discouragement but he stuck to it.
-- Breanna Toropoc, wife