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Qualtrough, McNaughton aim to cast wider recruiting net

Don Wall
Qualtrough, McNaughton aim to cast wider recruiting net
EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT CANADA — Federal Minister of Employment Carla Qualtrough announced apprenticeship funding for small and medium-sized enterprises on Nov. 17.

At simultaneous presentations Nov. 17 in Ottawa and Toronto, the federal and provincial ministers of employment and labour respectively announced funding for trades training programs seeking to broaden the construction training pool.

In Ottawa, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, visited the LIUNA Local 527 Training Centre in Ottawa to highlight $49 million in funding for Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU) for a project targeting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) participating in the federal Apprenticeship Service.

Meanwhile in Toronto, Ontario Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton stopped by the Finishing Trades Institute of Ontario where he announced $3.5 million to be awarded to the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario to support the council’s Tomorrow’s Trade program. The council provides training in the construction trades to at-risk youth.

Both programs offer incentives to increase the participation of workers from underrepresented groups in the skilled construction trades.

The funding announced by Qualtrough provides financial incentives to hire apprentices at SMEs in nine provinces. The CBTU hopes to recruit 5,000 first-year apprentices in eligible Red Seal trades over the next two years, including a minimum of 680 from underrepresented groups targeted with extra incentive funding.

“There’s no one solution to all of this, but the apprenticeship service is certainly a piece of the puzzle for sure,” said Qualtrough.

Ottawa’s announcement came two weeks after the federal government announced it would be ramping up efforts to attract more immigrants to the construction trades. Then, on Nov. 16, federal Minister of Immigration Sean Fraser unveiled a new classification system for worker eligibility under the Express Entry system. Among 16 newly eligible occupations are residential and commercial installers and servicers and heavy equipment operators.

“We’re basically leaving no stone unturned, so we know we have to make immigration pathways easier,” said Qualtrough.

“Another part of it is maximizing our current workforce, maximizing the participation of people we have here in Canada. Part of that is tapping into untapped labour pools that have traditionally faced barriers to employment in the country. that’s all the groups that we’re working with, particularly through the apprenticeship service.”

CBTU executive director Sean Strickland told the LIUNA audience in Ottawa the CBTU has been tasked by Fraser to specifically identify the trades under the National Occupation codes that the construction sector needs across Canada.

The CBTU will be reporting back to the minister in the next half year.

“I would say the biggest pinch points for trade availability in Canada are in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario,” said Strickland. “Indeed, right here, Local 527, I just had a brief chat with the training co-ordinator, they could easily use 200 more workers right here in the Ottawa area.”

Qualtrough and Strickland also noted the construction industry needs to train an additional cohort of skilled workers for new projects the government is funding such as energy from hydrogen, energy retrofits, small modular reactors and net-zero projects.

Qualtrough said the U.S. is aggressively funding similar projects and Canada needs to remain competitive, which means quicker project approvals.

She is working with other ministers to “find the balance between making sure these are good projects that meet high environmental standards but still actually get shovels in the ground,” Qualtrough said. “Absolutely, there’s no point in making all these investments if you can’t get projects approved.”

In Toronto, McNaughton was joined by Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy, Building Trades business manager Marc Arsenault and members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades for the Tomorrow’s Trades funding announcement. The program supports at-risk youth connecting with industry mentors and is available for students in London, Hamilton-Niagara, Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor-Sarnia and Sudbury until March 2023.

Tomorrow’s Trades participants will receive $225 per week for training and transportation costs.

Follow the author on Twitter @DonWall_DCN.

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