By Lincoln DePradine
When junior Ontario government minister Vincent Ke showed up in Scarborough to announce more than $269,000 in funding for a program of Tropicana Community Services (TCS), the organization’s executive director Raymund Guiste called it a “great day’’.
The Pre-apprenticeship Training Program, overseen by the Employment Centre of TCS, prepares youth, between the ages of 18 and 30, for careers in auto body and collision damage repair. The program is in its 10th year.
“Over the last 10 years, close to 170 youth have completed their Level 1 training and have joined the workforce as new apprentices,’’ Nimo Abdulkadir Jama, director at the Employment Centre, said during the funding announcement ceremony November 8 at Tropicana’s Huntingwood Drive head office.
Ke, Conservative MPP for Don Valley North and parliamentary assistant to the minister of tourism, culture and sports, said the provincial government was increasing spending on apprenticeship training by $2.5 million over last year. Of that amount, Tropicana will be receiving $269,842 from the ministry of labour, training and skills development in 2020 for the agency’s auto body and collision damage repair training.
Investment in trades, said Ke, is good for the future of Ontario.
“By 2021, one in five new jobs in Ontario will be in trades-related occupations,’’ he said. “This means we’re looking for young people to fill these in-demand, respected and well-paid professions.’’
The eligibility criteria for the 30-week full-time program include a minimum Grade 12 diploma or equivalent. As well, applicants must be legally entitled to work in Canada and possess a valid Ontario driver’s license.
Prior to starting their course, program participants receive six weeks of pre-employment training at Tropicana. They also receive technical training at college.
Tropicana also collaborates with sponsors and employers to allow the trainees to obtain toolkits, visit auto body repair shops, receive assistance to cover the cost of tuition, and to get paid work placements.
Over the decade, it has become “one of the most respected pre-apprenticeship programs in the province’’, Guiste told last Friday’s audience that included TCS sponsors and partners, graduates of the program, and MPP for Scarborough North, Raymond Cho, minister for seniors and accessibility.
The training program at TCS was developed by Marc Tremblay, the pre-apprenticeship coordinator.
“Building the program from nothing to something was definitely a challenge,’’ said Tremblay, who is still with TCS but has passed the role of pre-apprenticeship coordinator to Suad Dualeh.
“It took a lot of time to get the employers to buy in; and once they started to buy in, they started to introduce us to different potential sponsors and it just started to grow from there,’’ Tremblay said.
Guiste, executive director for the past four months, said Tropicana was proud of its program partners and appreciative of its sponsors, and also thankful to the Ontario government for its “generous support and help’’.
“It really is a great day,’’ he said. “We’re just so proud of the program, the impact that it’s been having in the community.’’
According to MPP Ke, “it is a great time to be in the skills trades’’.
“Trade work is essential to our economy and infrastructure. Ontario was built by trades’ people,’’ he said. “We need to support trade workers in order to keep Ontario growing strong.’’
Registration for Tropicana’s Pre-apprenticeship Training Program can be done by contacting Dualeh at telephone 491-7000, extension 209. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org