The Ontario government has announced more than $4 million for new projects to promote skilled trades, train future workers and ensure that current workers have the right tools and mental health supports they need.
“Workers, their families and their communities have faced all kinds of challenges and difficulties over the past year,” Monte McNaughton, minister of labour said at a news conference in June.
“While many of us have been working online and at home, construction workers have remained on their jobsites every single day,” he said. “Construction workers make our dreams come to life and are the backbone of Ontario’s communities. It’s on their backs that we have the homes our families live in, the schools where we learn, and the hospitals that have been critical to all of us over the last 18 months.”
The six projects are:
- A pre-apprenticeship program for 460 workers to learn about rod-working typically used in transit and light rail bridge construction. The Ontario Ironworkers District Council will provide two weeks of in-class training and an eight-week work placement. Training will be available in Ottawa, Toronto, Sudbury, Hamilton and Windsor. Those who successfully complete the program will be registered and employed as apprentices.
- The Tomorrow’s Trades project to introduce 96 underrepresented youth to the skilled trades in Hamilton, London, Ottawa and Sudbury. This project will include 12 weeks of hands-on training and a 12-week work placement to learn about being carpenters, electrical workers, pipe trades, sheet metal workers and ironworkers. Upon completion, participants can enter a union-sponsored apprenticeship.
- A new Building and Construction Tradeswomen project to attract more women to the trades through marketing and free training.
- Support for Ironworkers Local 759 in Thunder Bay to purchase necessary equipment used in training, testing and certifying 140 apprentices and journeypersons so they do not need to travel to upgrade or maintain their certifications.
- The development of a one-stop online learning system for those interested in the construction trades to explore and build essential skills they can apply to apprenticeships in construction.
- A research project at the De Novo Treatment Centre in Huntsville to study and provide support for addiction and suicide issues in the construction industry. This project will develop a report and create tools for training centres, unions, and employers to better understand and address mental health.
It is expected that the new support programs will support current workers and encourage people to explore trades careers.
Adam Melnick, program director at Construction Training and Apprenticeship Ontario and Tomorrow’s Trades said the projects will offer new opportunities to explore the trades and launch meaningful careers.
“These projects offer a great opportunity for those interested in the trades to explore, experience and get involved in any of the unionized construction skilled trade apprenticeships, leading to meaningful careers,” he said.
“All of these projects will be helpful to Ontario’s Building and Construction Trades Unions and their Employer Partners in advancing their efforts in building a more inclusive and diverse workforce by improving awareness and pathways to apprenticeships and careers in the industry.” he said.
Data shows the need to replace retiring workers is greater for skilled trades workers than for other occupations in Ontario. In 2016, nearly one in three journeypersons were aged 55 years or older.
According to Statistics Canada, more than 500,000 people were employed in construction in Ontario in 2020. In the fourth quarter of 2020, there were 11,805 job vacancies in the construction sector in Ontario, up from 10,125 in the fourth quarter of 2019.
“The Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario applauds the government’s funding announcement,” said Patrick Dillon, business manager and secretary treasurer, Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario.
“This investment will encourage young people from diverse and underprivileged backgrounds to join the construction trades, support mental health for our construction workers, deliver cutting-edge skills training to thousands of workers across the province, and help attract and retain more women in construction.”
The Electrical Contractors’ Association of Ontario (ECAO) is also on board.
“With a focus on recruitment and preparation of candidates that are traditionally underrepresented in the skilled trades, such as women, Indigenous youth, Black youth, persons with disabilities, newcomers, youth at-risk, returning veterans, reservists, cadets, and those from racialized communities for application to apprenticeships and careers in the skilled trades,” said Graeme Aitken, executive director. “ECAO welcomes this program and commits, with our labour partners the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Construction Council of Ontario (IBEW CCO), to support fully the important work of Tomorrow’s Trades.”