Ontario Premier Doug Ford was clear in his statement that the province is “desperately in need of more electricians, welders, carpenters and construction workers,” during a recent announcement of $37 million that is geared towards helping thousands of people upgrade their skills or retrain for a new career during the COVID-19 recovery.
To help facilitate this influx of workers are the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the Labourers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), Ontario’s Building Trades Unions and colleges and universities who are all slated to benefit from the funding.
“These kinds of investments in people and talent are absolutely critical as we work together to get our economy firing on all four cylinders once again,” said Ford in a press conference at the IBEW Local 105 Training Centre in Hamilton Sept. 3.
It’s a move that’s being met with praise among the training providers.
“The IBEW CCO is very proud of our female apprentices and journeypersons who provided training demonstrations to Premier Ford and Minister McNaughton during their visit,” said James Barry, executive secretary treasurer of the IBEW Construction Council of Ontario, in an email to the Daily Commercial News. “Our union is committed to diversification and encouraging more women to join the trade and we are pleased that the government has announced it will fund programs to support that.
“We appreciate that the Ontario government has announced investments in training, reinforcing the importance that only highly trained and certified professionals should be undertaking dangerous work such as electrical work,” he added.
Ford, Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, training and skills development, and other MPPs toured the facility and met with members.
The funding will provide skills training to over 15,000 people. It will support 86 projects and provide training, internships and other hands-on learning experiences for high-demand skills like construction, information technology, advanced manufacturing, truck driving and horticulture. It will support universities, colleges, training providers and community and business organizations with costs related to planning, organizing and implementing projects.
In construction, the government is investing $450,000 to support women in the trades and for health and safety training through the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario.
“We’ve done a lot of work over the past six months on the protocols and safety for COVID,” explained Patrick Dillon, business manager for the Building Trades Council.
“The more we get into this stuff, the more mental health challenges are being highlighted.
“There is a lot of work ongoing with mental health programs. Funding will be directed towards those programs and initiatives.”
A big concern in the industry right now is the attitude of some who want to move back to the pre-COVID workplace practices, Dillon explained.
“When we got into COVID and really started digging into the hygiene and health and safety practices on construction projects in Ontario, it was embarrassing how bad it actually was,” he said. “There has been a lot of co-operation with the government and the contractors associations and the building trades to collectively work at cleaning that up. They’ve done a reasonably good job, but some contractors think that we should start relaxing the protocols moving back to pre-COVID. It’s just not going to happen. We’ve got some educational work to do around that.”
LIUNA International vice-president Joe Mancinelli said many of the training trust funds within LIUNA will be applying for the funding.
“All of these training trusts will be making applications through the provincial government in order to get some of that funding,” he said.
“This announcement touches upon some of the very things that LIUNA has been at the forefront of — training women and health and safety. I was glad to see it because it shows the premier and also the minister of labour are in tune with what the construction industry needs right now, that is to get some additional funding into our training centres for the very things we need the most.”
LIUNA runs a number of courses at its training centres for women in construction, including one offered through a partnership with Aecon.
Through the Women Inclusion in the Trades Network, LIUNA runs an eight-week Construction Craft Worker Program with 12 women to obtain hands on career building skills at a training centre in Vaughan, Ont.
“We cannot continue to talk about infrastructure stimulus as an economic recovery and development strategy without recognizing the work that must continue to be done across the industry to encourage more women in the trades to account for women’s job losses throughout the pandemic,” indicates a statement issued by LIUNA’s women’s committee following the announcement.
“The announcement by Premier Ford and Minister McNaughton is a critical step to continue building a stronger, inclusive workforce across Ontario that are the economic engine of our economy. Investing in training and retraining women in the skilled trades will ensure that women are able to participate in and equally benefit from infrastructure stimulus.”
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