First class of Skilled Development Fund grads a boon for local builders

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Robin MacLennan

Ontario Construction Report staff writer

Niagara College’s Welland Campus recently recognized 80 graduates from the first year of the new Skills Development Fund (SDF) program certificate in roofing fundamentals and drywall installer fundamentals.

The $1.2 million program is a partnership between the Niagara Home Builders’ Association (NHBA) and Niagara College (NC). It is funded by the province to help meet the demand for skilled trades workers in the residential construction industry.

“Everyone in this room has a different story to tell. Stories of success, failure, frustration, happiness or fear. However, there is one chapter in this book of life that connects you all, and that is your perseverance and determination to grow and become victorious on your path towards your future career in the trades,” NHBA CEO Chuck McShane said at the graduation ceremony.

With Ontario projected to build 1.5 million homes in the next 10 years, the NHBA and NC have been working together to close the skills gap in the construction industry and the trades.

The provincial SDF funding supported a customized construction skills training program – hands-on instruction through NC’s School of Trades followed by an eight-week paid work placement – to individuals who have been unable to pursue a career in the trades due to financial or other barriers.

“Niagara College is proud to see this first cohort of students accept their hard-earned certificates which represent the in-demand skills they’ve earned,” said Jeff Murrell, associate dean of the School of Trades. “This program was enabled by an investment from the provincial government in support of our work with industry partners to meet the current and future needs of employers.

Welland resident Samuel Oloyede was among the first graduates, specializing in drywall installation. Oloyede is now employed with Stolk Construction where he is growing his skills in the construction trade.

“The program was very instrumental and has prepared me for job sites and the benefits and challenges that come with the construction trade which has been fascinating so far,” said Oloyede. “The program has helped me take advantage of every task assigned to me at the job site, showcasing previous knowledge and learning something new every day.”

The construction skills certificate of completion program has been deemed an overall success story, with 80 participants completing the course between June 2022 and March 2023. Many graduates have already secured long-term employment or are starting their own businesses.

Others are returning to Niagara College for the Carpentry and Renovation Technician Co-op program or are pursuing pre-apprenticeship programs.

“Studies show that as many as one-in-five jobs within the province of Ontario will be in the skilled trades by the year 2025,” said NHBA president Richard Lawrence. “This program has allowed the NHBA and Niagara College to develop and train students with the skills they need in order to be job site ready to work their way into building a stable career, while filling the void of the 100,000 workers our industry needs over the next decade.”

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