The Ontario government has announced $5.3 million in grant funding to upskill 500 electrical workers at rising Ontario electrical contractor Spark Power.
The funding will provide free training for new and experienced Spark Power electricians, boosting existing online, on-the-job and in-classroom education programming and creating scholarships to encourage youths to enter the field.
The program is expected to start in August and will include training in electrical maintenance, power generation systems and health and safety regulations for Spark workers and potential new employees.
Spark Power president and CEO Richard Jackson explained during an online presentation held May 20 that the new program will include modernized learning techniques and tools such as virtual reality and augmented reality, webinars, cross-team training, job shadowing and outreach to local high schools and post-secondary institutions.
“We’ve built a really great Ontario success story right out of Oakville, Ont. and as a leading independent provider of our services across both Ontario and North America, including renewable energy sources, we are excited about the future of power, and continuing to provide innovative learning opportunities to our team,” Jackson said.
In addition to creating scholarships, Spark Power will provide paid placements for co-op students and apprentices to help them start their careers.
The pandemic emphasized the importance of developing and maintaining essential power services, and with the sector’s focus on continuing innovation it’s essential to keep the flow of well-trained electricians and other trades coming, Jackson said. That includes recruiting youths and keeping existing workers well trained.
“The Ontario government’s investment only furthers our ability to recruit and retain highly skilled employees across the province and beyond,” said Jackson. “At Spark, we know that the trades are a versatile, evolving, exciting sector to be working in.”
Funding for the project comes from Ontario’s $115-million Skills Development Fund. More than 500 applications were received in the first month of the new fund, and a second application round is being planned for later in 2021.
Spark Power, founded in Ontario in 2011, provides electrical, operations and maintenance and energy sustainability services to multiple sectors throughout North America. Its annual revenue in fiscal 2020 was $228.2 million.
Spark’s vice-president of people and culture Najlaa Rauf said it’s essential for Spark to meet the expectations of potential recruits who demand a modern learning environment.
“It’s really important for us from a skills development standpoint that people get different areas and abilities to learn both on the tools and in the classroom and online,” said Rauf.
Ontario Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton hosted the online event and noted Spark approached his ministry months ago with the funding proposition. The province has committed $1 billion to modernize the skilled trade system in the province and fill the skills gap in Ontario, McNaughton said.
The program also aligns with the reforms to the province’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system introduced May 6 in the Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades Act, McNaughton said. The legislation provides for a new Crown agency, Skilled Trades Ontario, that would replace the Ontario College of Trades.
“They came to us with the idea to create a modern training program for electrical trades that is safe and effective both during the pandemic and beyond,” said the minister. “We’re delighted to help this company prepare 500 workers for the jobs of today and to attract and foster the next generation of electricians.
“Government can’t do this work alone, but with the right partners, we really can move mountains.”
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