Meet the Heat and Frost Insulators

Chris Melvin, General Foreman(New Brunswick)

The heat and frost insulation industry has changed, says General Foreman Chris Melvin of Saint John, New Brunswick. At 44 years of age, Chris has been a heat and frost insulator for 16 years. In that time, he's seen the trade evolve from a more physical job to a career that requires a great deal of skill. "The industry has flipped right upside down," he says. "Now it's a lot more technical."

Chris explains that the industry underwent significant changes over the past decade to improve the quality and performance of insulation products. Today, heat and frost insulators require the skill and knowledge to work with flat stock metal and form it to fit the shapes of the surfaces they're insulating.

That change is just one of the many points about the industry that Chris wants the public to know, particularly people considering a career in the trades. When Chris got started in the industry in the early 1990s, he was simply looking for a job. He had worked in the trades before, but didn't know much about heat and frost insulation. He started out in the industry by chance, he says, when a friend mentioned that the trade needed good workers. Chris enrolled in an apprenticeship program, and from his first day on the job, he knew he'd found his calling. "I thought the money was great… It was good experience; it introduced me to the industrial world."

Now that he's worked his way up to supervisory roles, such as Foreman and General Foreman, Chris oversees the new heat and frost insulators entering the trade. Although he still sees men and women entering the trade without knowing much about the industry—most of them are just looking for steady work—he finds that once they realize what the trade has to offer, they stick around. "I see people being interested because of our intensive metal layout program. It's very interesting, the challenge."

As Chris sees it, working in heat and frost insulation is a dream job for anyone who is looking for work, even if they don't have prior experience in skilled trades. "The trade world is a perfect opportunity for somebody who … doesn't have a university degree or certificate. If you've got your grade 12, it's a perfect opportunity to make $100,000 a year just by devoting yourself to it." And, he adds, "We need men in Canada big time. We need women too."