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‘Doors finally opening for underrepresented groups in construction’

Angela Gismondi
‘Doors finally opening for underrepresented groups in construction’
TORONTO COMMUNITY BENEFITS NETWORK - The annual NexGen Builders Mentoring Program Retreat was hosted recently by the Toronto Community Benefits Network in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. The day provided the opportunity for mentors and mentees to connect. It also featured team-building activities and speakers.

The importance of creating opportunities for Black youth, women and newcomers in the construction industry was one of the key takeaways from this year’s NexGen Builders Mentoring Program Retreat, hosted by the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN).

“Doors are finally opening for underrepresented groups in the construction industry, fuelled by massive public and private investments in infrastructure, including housing and a focus on green building, coupled with a mounting labour shortage and the increased demand from the public for equity hiring through community benefits agreements,” explained Rosemarie Powell, executive director of the TCBN, in an email to the Daily Commercial News.

Powell said the only way to create equitable opportunities for underrepresented groups is “for the industry to meaningfully participate in opening doors for those individuals.”

One example is the networking and mentorship opportunities created through NexGen Builders. The program provides those pursuing careers in construction with mentors to prepare them for the workplace.

The retreat, held recently in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., was an opportunity for mentors and mentees in the program to strengthen connections, build relationships and discuss the opportunities available.

“(The retreat) is an opportunity for new construction apprentices and professionals to come together with a supportive network of community, labour and industry partners to learn from each other and forge lasting relationships as they navigate their career journey in an industry that has not always been welcoming,” said Powell.

It was hosted in partnership with the Canada Green Building Council and pre-apprenticeship training delivery partners, Mohawk College, Building UP, the Labour Education Centre and the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office. 

NexGen Builders is funded primarily by the Province of Ontario in collaboration with community, labour and industry partners.

More mentors, construction unions and employers need to come on board to provide opportunities, guidance and support, Powell noted. Governments also need to do their part.

“The mentees in our programs are excited about the jobs and economic opportunities generated by investments in infrastructure and they are doing everything within their power to build skills needed to succeed,” she said.

“They need greater collaboration between government and the industry to create the conditions for them to achieve their career goals by making equity hiring a requirement in procurement contracts and ensuring compliance of the general contractors and subcontractors who make the hiring decisions.”

The TCBN also launched a new series of online Green Building Career Fairs at the retreat which will be held over the next seven months.

The fairs will introduce jobseekers to construction representatives with green priorities who are ready to recruit, train and hire.

The initiative is part of the Workforce 2030: Rapid Upskilling for Green Building Occupations project, funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre, which aims to accelerate the transition of over 500 COVID-impacted workers into green building jobs by 2023. 

Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela

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