“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33 KJV
Jimmy Namnama was a fruit farmer in Laoag City in Ilocos Norte before he immigrated to Canada in April 2013 with his children Joshua Jamil (16), Jasmine Nicole (15), Janine Czarel (14), Mark Jacob (10) and Jaze NIzairah (6) to join his wife Grace who moved to Toronto first in 2007 after taking a caregiving course. Some of his first odd jobs here was at the Dollar Tree store and then at a power washing company cleaning trucks and garages. Like many new Filipino immigrants, he had trouble adjusting to the weather and finding a job in his field.
Discouraged, he was ready to return to work as a farmer in the Philippines but realized that his passport had expired. This would later turn out to be a blessing in disguise and the immediate answer to his prayer one fateful morning. “Every time before leaving our apartment, I would always pray,” explained Jimmy, who is a devout Christian and raised his children to read the Bible. “That day, I prayed for the Lord to send me sincere good people in Canada because I had many bad experiences with some of the Filipinos I met here who gave me bad advice which was one of the things that triggered me to decide to go back home.” On his visit to the Philippine Consulate General in Toronto on that day in June 2013, he met Emma Manrique who, after hearing his plight, introduced him to her husband, future International Building Maintenance Academy founder Ricky Manrique who took him under his wing.
Before IBMA was officially founded, Ricky was working as a building superintendent when there were no specific courses or schools catering to the growing building maintenance industry. After Ricky and Emma witnessed many new Filipino immigrants struggling to find jobs in Canada, they took it upon themselves to welcome them into their home where Ricky would share his knowledge and skills for free to help uplift his kababayans only asking that they pay it forward if they ever find someone else in need. This spirit of camaraderie was what Ricky fostered with his students to consciously combat the negativity of crab mentality which unfortunately is widespread in Filipino communities.
Ricky started personally teaching Jimmy the skills he needed to become a building superintendent and before he could complete his training, Ricky even managed to place him in a new job in September 2013. “I was the newest trainee and the demand for building superintendents was so great. The building maintenance companies were in desperate need of skilled superintendents that they were relying on Ricky to supply them with staff. The students before me were immediately hired and placed in buildings.
I was the only one left for Ricky to recommend to fill that new opening before my training was even complete,” Jimmy explained. At first, he was nervous when he started working as a part-time live-out assistant building superintendent for Maple Ridge Condominium Management. He was the first Filipino building superintendent working for the company and as his employers observed his excellent work ethic, they eventually hired him full-time. He worked there from 2013 until 2019 when he started working for Elmwood Spa, a historic five-storey building in downtown Toronto.
What should people know about IBMA?
JIMMY: IBMA teaches everything you need to know regardless of your background. Even if you don’t know electrical systems, plumbing or carpentry, they will teach you everything hands-on in the school. Even if you’re a lawyer or doctor or know nothing about houses or buildings, IBMA will train you. There’s no sense taking a course to study building systems if it is all just theory and books. IBMA gives you the actual hands-on training.
What advice do you have for people who might have second thoughts about taking the risk to change careers?
JIMMY: Speaking from personal experience, I can say that for people who aren’t happy in their careers and especially factory workers who are afraid to change careers, now is the time to decide. We are not getting any younger and physically, our bodies and strength eventually depreciate with age. Working in a building does not require heavy physical work, unlike in factories. Also, while there are strict schedules and breaktimes in factories and other jobs, as a building supervisor, you can sit down, walk or take your break whenever you want. You are there to supervise and part of your training teaches you to diagnose a potential problem so when you call a contractor, you can tell them right away so they do not have to waste time trying to figure it out if you can help by identifying it. Licensed technicians have expensive rates. Therefore, building superintendents help the maintenance company reduce expenses from hiring licensed technicians by saving their time. Also, while studying at IBMA, you get hands-on experience fixing pipes and doing other maintenance jobs so when you are working as a building superintendent, you will know if the contractor is doing their job correctly.
What perks are you enjoying now in your new career that you could not find in your previous jobs?
JIMMY: Your time is yours to manage and you can work at your own pace. Sometimes in this industry, the management will give you a work order. If you cannot fix it, then you can call a contractor. They will not push you to do it if you are hesitant. You are a caretaker and control your time in the eight hours you work daily. Also, you have job security because with the growing demand for building superintendents due to the increasing building construction projects, the demand is always there unlike in the factory industry where if labor costs are too high, the company can relocate their operations to another country and the workers lose their jobs. Many factory workers are always laid off. But in this building maintenance industry, so many building projects are rising.
Another great thing about IBMA is although they are not obligated to help students find jobs, because Ricky has so many contacts in the building maintenance companies, the graduates are quickly hired before they even complete the course since the demand is greater than the supply of specifically trained skilled superintendents. The longer you work in a building, the more familiar you will be with it and the higher your pay grows along with some perks because the company does not want to risk losing you and hiring someone new who is unfamiliar with the property. Employee poaching is also common in this industry since the demand is greater than the supply. Some property management companies even try to offer larger salaries to convince superintendents working for a competitor to switch over and work for them.
What should people know about Ricky Manrique?
JIMMY: Based on my experience and observing him teaching others, he is one of a kind. He has a heart to really help people. When I first met Ricky and the students he trained before me, he told us, “The Filipino attitude is known for crab mentality. When a Filipino moves up, their fellow Filipinos pull them down. Let’s change this attitude in Canada. I’m helping you find jobs so when I push you up, you will help pull each other up. Instead of being jealous of someone who is advancing in life, be happy that you were part of their success.” So, that became our attitude towards each other. Current students and former students exchanged numbers so whenever we were working alone in our buildings and encountered problems we were not sure how to solve, we could call any of our more experienced peers for guidance and help. So, now that I know many property management companies too, whenever they call me looking to fill jobs, I also recommend people to help them find employment. To God be the glory. I also want to share this Bible verse. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Jeremiah 29:11 KJV
By Michelle Charmaine Ramos