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There is a bright future for the trades. People will always need service repairs and maintenance for houses, schools, stores and office buildings."
Herman Bruin, RSE
Herman Bruin of Red Deer is a natural born leader. He has shouldered tremendous leadership in the transformation of Alberta’s construction safety and apprenticeship programs over his more than 50-year career.
Herman spent his early years in Holland before immigrating with his parents and sister to Canada. His father (Cor Bruin) worked as a plumber in Holland, and was able to continue working in his trade in Edmonton shortly after his arrival, eventually starting the family business, Bruin’s Plumbing, in Red Deer in 1965.
Herman’s career had simple beginnings as a teenager working in a car wash. His drive and determination propelled him into construction work and ultimately into the trades. His journey began as an apprentice painter, until he moved to Red Deer and joined his father’s company in 1966. Over his career, Herman earned journeyperson certificates in the steamfitter-pipefitter, plumber and gasfitter trades.
Herman’s rule of thumb for career success is to keep a positive attitude, especially in tough times, and stay ambitious and work hard, even in good times.
Business exploded during the 1970s, and Bruin’s plumbing company experienced a huge surge in demand, even in Saskatchewan and British Columbia, with jobs “walking in the door.” Then in 1982, a drastic downturn in the economy resulted in a reduction of staff from 75 to nine.
After the drastic economic downturn in 1982, Herman joined the Red Deer Construction Association. This opened the door to additional opportunities to bid on a vast array of commercial construction projects. Under his practical and skillful leadership, the resilient company began to regrow, expanding to become Bruin’s Plumbing and Heating Ltd.
As the safety representative for the Red Deer Construction Association, Herman spent many years traveling to Edmonton and Calgary to attend meetings on safety. During the 70s, safety regulations for jobsites were scarce, and workers had very few protections. Herman poured great amounts of time and energy into seeing the Alberta Safety Construction Association launch in 1988. All of this happened while Herman continued working for the family company, taking it over when his father retired, also in 1988.
Since the early 1970s, Herman has maintained his focus on improving safety in the trades, working along with the different governing bodies in the sector and with the Alberta government.
In his capacity as president and owner of Bruin’s Plumbing and Heating Ltd, Herman has served as president of the Red Deer Construction Association and chair of the Alberta Construction Association, the Alberta Construction Safety Association, and the Parkland Regional Safety Committee.
He has also served as a board member on the Worker’s Compensation Board, and the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board, as well as a public representative of the former provincial Student Finance Board, among others.
Thanks in part to Herman’s advocacy and endless travel up and down the province, safety is now core on jobsites, and safety training has improved substantially. Herman is very proud of the many awards and recognitions his company has received for its safety leadership among the trades.
“It really matters to me that at the end of the day, all workers are able to return home safely to their families,” says Herman.
While serving on the provincial Student Finance Board, Herman immediately noted the need for additional funding for apprenticeship training. By the time Herman had finished his term, apprenticeship had become a regular agenda item, and today much more funding is available for apprentices through grants and scholarships.
Leading by example, Bruin’s Plumbing and Heating Ltd created an endowment to provide annual scholarships to Red Deer College apprenticeship students, an award Herman enjoys presenting in person when possible. By reducing the financial burden for students, Herman hopes more gifted apprentices will progress in their training and earn their journeyperson certification.
Herman always looks for attitude when he's hiring. Success in the trades comes from completing an apprenticeship, having a positive attitude towards work and recognizing you will get as much as you give.
He is glad perceptions of the trades has changed and that more and more, people recognize it as a rewarding and respected career choice, especially educators and parents.
“For anyone possessing a Red Seal certified endorsement, there will always be limitless opportunities throughout our province and our country,” says Herman. “It is important to encourage young people to pursue their interests in the trades where they can find a good and rewarding career.”
Herman is proud that what started as a family business has continued that way and now represents three generations. Of his six children, three work alongside him: his son Marty is general manager, and his daughters, Corinna who works in the office and Becky who works in various capacities within the office and warehouse. Widowed in 2013, he has since remarried. He has 16 grandchildren, including one who works with him in the business, and 14 great grandchildren.