George Brown alum Chris Campbell builds paths to success in the trades for BIPOC youth

By Shawne McKeown

Chris Campbell

Carpenter, union leader and equity, diversity and inclusion champion Chris Campbell is passionate about helping others succeed in the skilled trades. When he delivered a keynote address at a 2022 George Brown College convocation ceremony, he shared a Maya Angelou quote that guides his efforts. “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.”

Campbell is a proud graduate of George Brown’s Carpentry Apprentice program and the Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity for the Carpenters’ Regional Council. He travels across the province to talk to industry reps, visit job sites, and connect young people to meaningful career options. Campbell is also Vice-President of the Toronto Carpenter’s Union, Local 27.

“From Thunder Bay to Sarnia, you can’t assume that things are the way they are in Toronto. So I go to each community, engage people and listen to what they’re saying,” he says.

For more than two decades, Campbell has been laser-focused on connecting Black and Indigenous youth and youth from other diverse communities to opportunities in the skilled trades. He meets with young people at their places of worship, community centres, and other social hubs.

“Wherever you want me. I’m there with the support of my union,” he says.

Campbell’s work for youth laid the foundation for the Toronto Community Benefits Network, of which he is now Chair of the Board of Directors. In addition, he sits on several other construction industry and community boards and committees.

When asked about the working environment for Black people in the trades, Campbell admits it wasn’t great when he was coming up, but positive changes are happening — changes he is helping to push forward.

“When I reflect, I say, yeah, that happened to me, but I was too driven by wanting to make something of myself that I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time,” he said. “I can remember some of the conversations, word for word.”

Journalists covering a spate of racist crimes at construction sites around Toronto in the summer and fall of 2020, including nooses left on job sites and hate graffiti, sought comment from Campbell. He explained why workers are hesitant to speak up in an article published by The Globe and Mail in August 2021. “They can only walk away or keep smiling and keep going because they have their bills to pay and their family to support.”

When questioned by the media or anyone else about racism on the job, Campbell says he speaks openly and honestly about the issue.

 “I tell both sides, the good and the bad, the challenges and the success.”