For Cassandra Creese, the Quick Start in Construction Program opened her eyes to the pathways and possibilities of a career in construction.
“Seeing the structure of the construction industry, what role the unions will play, what role the general contractors will play, just coming into a bit of an understanding of that and what role the community benefit agreements play, that was all new to me,” said Creese, who was a participant in the program in January and February. “It was a nice atmosphere to be with other participants that were also trying to find their path in the construction trades. It’s interesting hearing different interests and what other construction trades do.”
Part of the Toronto Community Benefits Network, the four-week, 140-hour apprenticeship readiness program helps prepare those who want to work in construction trades with basic requirements and certifications such as Working at Heights, Elevated Work Platforms, WHMIS and Workplace Violence and Harassment as well as hands on experience and wraparound supports.
The program targets those who are “ready for a career in construction, know the trade they want to learn, have relevant work experience and need help to transition into trades and apprenticeships.”
Creese, who decided to make a career change in her 30s, completed hazardous materials training in 2019 and is currently a second-year apprentice.
“I went to an open house for one of the construction trades training centres and it piqued my interest,” stated Creese, who decided to do the interview to see if she would be accepted. “Construction was never something that my family or people I was around ever promoted or were into it or knew anything about.”
Quick Start provides training, support and networking
Earlier this year, she decided to join Quick Start in Construction to build her skills and make connections.
“I want to continue expanding my skills and my knowledge,” Creese said. “Besides my employers and a few employees that I meet, there are not a lot of people that I know in the field. I wanted to have more of a network and support.”
The program included online training, reading blueprints and getting a refresher in high school math, but Creese enjoyed the hands-on aspect the most.
“We learned how to do wall framing and drywalling and that was amazing,” said Creese.
“We had the option to do it at home or go into a lab. I chose to go into the warehouse. It was nice to be with the instructor and interact with them and also to get to use the tools there.”
She is now part of the NexGen Builders Mentoring program and hopes to be matched with a mentor in the industry.
Program organizers find creative ways to offer program online
Currently 90 per cent of the Quick Start program is done online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We needed to be creative otherwise we are stuck,” said program co-ordinator Manuela Sa. “The main goal of the program is that the participants get their safety training certifications. They get the chance to get seven safety training certifications for free.”
For those who were unable to do the hands-on portion in person, the instructor developed a home kit for participants to build a frame, a table and a toolbox. The in-person session is restricted to three participants at a time so they are able to adhere to safety protocols.
Participants can apply to join the program online. There is an information session to explain how the program works and there are one-on-one interviews with each applicant.
“I want to interview each one before they come into the program because I want to see their motivation. I want to see what goals they want to get out of the program,” Sa explained.
The program is open to anyone interested in the field, but the focus is on newcomers, women and Black, Indigenous and people of colour.
Participants receive tools, a vest, goggles, a hard hat and boots but the biggest benefit according to Sa is getting to know more about the trades.
“We try to educate them about the trades and the possibilities. For example, when you join a union what does it mean? When you take your Red Seal how is it going to help you?” Sa said. “We also connect them to the unions and employment because when they finish the program, we have a job coach that speaks with them individually.
“What I hear from them is after they join the union and they start to work they are really excited for the future,” she added. “They see the possibilities to have a good job, a good future for their families. It gives them hope to get a better life.”
Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.