A new partnership led by the Construction Foundation of BC (CFBC) was formed recently to help Indigenous youth acquire the skills training they need to succeed in the workforce.
The partnership in question, the Two Eyed Seeing Network, has been conducting focus groups of First Nations communities and youth in BC to hear their thoughts on how to design the system.
CFBC executive director Abigail Fulton says full participation of Indigenous youth is vital to the future strength the province’s workforce.
Over the next two years, the network will conduct a series of round table sessions across the province on workforce development.
A unique feature of the consultations is the use of a “two-eyed seeing” approach that incorporates Western and Indigenous ways of looking at the world.
Fulton says the network is an example of how CFBC, a registered charity founded in 2013, acts as a bridge between industry and the public.
“Our passion is applied learning and our vocation is to provide pathways for young people into the trades,” she said. “The foundation is unique because it focuses on the needs of both young, aspiring tradespeople – labour supply – and industry – labour demand.”
Fulton says CFBC’s line of work could be called “applied ESG [Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance].”
The funding to support CFBC’s mission comes from three sources: Industry sponsorships, private donations and government-funded programs.
Since the foundation was formed, its fundraising has benefited many individuals and organizations in BC.
For example, it has raised millions of dollars to outfit shop classes with new equipment; provided driver training to youth in and from care; connected educators with professional development opportunities; and awarded bursaries to young people to continue their trades education.
One of CFBC’s oldest programs is Skills Ready, which was launched in 2016.
Skills Ready helps prepare young people for careers in construction by identifying and promoting the soft skills they need in order to succeed in the construction skilled trades.
Skills Ready also enables industry to help young people get into apprenticeship programs and from there into long-term careers.
Since the program was established it has grown to support young people who are interested in careers in sectors of the economy other than construction.
A more recent CFBC program is the Trades Exploration Camp, on which the foundation partnered with Burnaby-based Ironworkers Local 97 in summer 2021, to spark the interest of young people in the trades.
The focus of the five-day workshop was metalworking and woodwork.
Workstations, at which the youthful participants learned the basics of the tools and attendant safety protocols, were set up for welding, oxyacetylene cutting, wood cutting, finishing and painting.
By Day Five, each member of the group was putting the finishing touches on his and her own table and benches.
“It was an exciting week, and the youth were awesome — jumping in to try all the tools,” said Rene Ragetli, CFBC director of project operations, who led the workshop.
Later in summer 2021, CFBC established a training fund with The Masonry Institute of BC (MIBC) to provide tuition and training support for individuals entering or continuing education in the masonry trades.
Eligible applicants will receive up to $1,000 to be applied to training costs incurred at the Trowel Trades Training Association.
MIBC has a mandate to promote the development of masonry in BC through technical support for designers, educators and building officials.
One of the foundation’s biggest fans is Phil Long, principal of Phil Long Construction Services Ltd in West Kelowna, BC and immediate past chairman of CFBC.
“The foundation is the best ambassador for the industry,” said Long. “It does wonderful work promoting the trades as a good career in the public schools.”
Katy Fairley, principal of Vancouver-based Fairley Strategies and CFBC director, says the foundation “bridges a gap where individuals and companies can directly contribute to the betterment of the industry.
“The foundation is helping to promote the industry as a viable career option to otherwise underrepresented groups, especially Indigenous peoples and communities,” said Fairley. “Equally important is its assistance navigating the apprenticeship system and helping with skills upgrading.”
It’s never too early to start encouraging young people to look at a career in the trades, says Fulton.
“Start talking to them in kindergarten,” she said. “Make sure their teachers there and in public school understand what the trades and applied learning are. Bring industry to the schools and integrate applied learning with the curriculum. Support students and teachers and help them all along and in time our efforts will pay off.”