Black and Caribbean community praises new $13M investment in skilled trades training


Senior trade unionist Chris Campbell wants a “fair portion’’ to go to those who are traditionally marginalized

 By Lincoln DePradine

Chris Campbell

More government money is being invested in programs to attract new and younger workers into choosing construction and skilled trades as their professions.

The government’s financial investments, motivated by a need to replace retiring skilled workers in Ontario and where there are thousands of unfilled jobs in the construction sector, are supported by many in the Black and Caribbean community.

The latest investment, to be disbursed under the Ontario Skills Development Fund (OSDF), is in excess of $13 million. It’s designated to provide free training and paid electricians’ apprenticeships for more than 2,500 people who, according to government, are unemployed Ontarians “or looking to earn bigger paychecks’’.

It will also go toward financial incentives that encourage employers to hire more apprentices and promote the electrical trades to underrepresented groups.

“When you have a job as an electrician, you have an in-demand job for life,” said Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s minister of labour, training and skills development. “I continue to hear from students and parents who don’t know how to enter this incredible field – which can pay over $50 an hour. That is why our government is investing over $1.5 billion in programs like this, which break down barriers and connect young people to life-changing careers in the skilled trades.”

Senior trade unionist, Jamaican-born Chris Campbell, said his hope is that a “fair portion’’ of the funding will go “those who need it the most; those who are traditionally marginalized and who have a bigger challenge in getting into these programs for decades’’.

Monte McNaughton (left) & James Barry, Electrical Workers

Billions of dollars are being spent in Ontario on projects such as hospital, school and road construction. However, it’s been reported that between July 2021 and September 2021, there were 338,835 unfilled jobs in Ontario. About eight percent – or 25,495 – of all vacancies were said to be in the construction sector.

“Now, more than ever, is the best time to start a career with us,’’ the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario says in an advertising flyer.

The council invites job-seekers to contact its equity and diversity representative, Chris Campbell, at 416-305-6599. Campbell is also vice president of the Carpenters’ Allied Workers Union (Local 27).

According to the Carpenters’ District Council, it “welcomes everyone including those who are Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, women, or members of other equity-seeking groups’’.

“We have an open-door policy at our office, where we welcome folks who are interested; who have a passion for the construction and want to step up to the challenge,’’ Campbell told The Caribbean Camera.

The new $13 million investment is for nine projects, including two being delivered by the Ontario Electrical Industry Training Trust Fund. It involves training nearly 300 people for jobs as construction and industrial electricians and cabling specialists. At the end of the program, participants will be offered employment.

“This funding announcement will help apprentices access the best training possible to address the growing need by employers for network cabling specialists,” said James Barry, executive secretary-treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ Construction Council of Ontario.

“As technology continues to evolve,’’ said Barry, “this in-demand trade not only provides a fulfilling career for young people and underrepresented populations, but their skills will be critical to helping build and sustain Ontario’s infrastructure well into the future. I commend minister McNaughton for continuing to promote high training and safety standards in the skilled trades.”

The $13 million is part of an overall $200 OSDF, in which the province partners with the federal government.

In launching the OSDF, officials said it is earmarked to “support innovative training projects that upskill workers and connect them to lucrative careers in their communities’’.