A Carpenters’ Union local in southwestern Ontario has a novel way to train and then place high school students with member contractors.
In the best-case scenario placements lead to permanent employment.
The Enhanced Construction Program (ECP), a partnership between Carpenters’ Local 494, Tecumseh, east of Windsor, and the Greater Essex County District School Board, saw its first cohort of graduates head to multi-week placements in the field earlier this year.
“It was started to streamline the process of students from high school getting into a trade that is expanding,” says Logan Kane, training co-ordinator, Local 494. “We’re trying to fill an industry need.”
Kane, who is unaware of any similar trades training course at other Carpenters’ Union locals in Ontario, calls the program “like a normal semester of high school,” except the students do the term at Local 494’s training centre.
“When I was in high school we never had any opportunities like this,” Kane says, adding if the program was not in place young people with a knack for the trade might not find their way into the field.
The ECP covers general shop safety and participants learn how to do basic layouts, some formwork, drywall, steel stud framing and the operation of equipment such as forklifts and articulating booms.
In addition, safety training covers working at heights, confined space awareness and hoisting and rigging, says Kane.
The venture with the school board is conducted at the union’s training centre, which was expanded recently, adding a classroom, a cafeteria and divisions have been set up in the shop area to meet the local’s health and safety protocols.
Kane says while the union’s safety standards for instruction go beyond provincial COVID-19 recommendations, the current province-wide lockdown has largely turned training into a virtual learning process.
That hampers learning because some things have to be taught in person, such as how to hammer a nail, do layouts, operate equipment or complete safety courses for certification.
“If I can’t see that you actually know how to complete A, B and C, then I can’t give you a certification for it.”
Since last fall when the first of two cohorts started, the union local initiated a number of safety precautions, starting with dividing the 30-student cohorts into two, with only one cohort per day.
Kane says every participant in the first cohort who completed the semester was sent on a multi-week placement with a member construction employer. Those contractors have the option of hiring the students after the placement is completed.
Through the provincial Skills Catalyst Fund grant, students are provided with a tool pouch, hammer, tape measure, speed square, chalkline and utility knife.
The second intake, which commenced in January, was recently sent home to do virtual training because of the lockdown.
Kane hopes that lockdown will be lifted this month.
“We’re just trying to roll with the punches…We do what we can to keep the training going and everybody still safe.”
The program is open to all students in the school board which encompasses Windsor, Kingsville, Leamington, Amherstburg and Harrow.