Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN) hosted its Annual NexGen Builders Mentoring Program Retreat at Polonia Park, Niagara-on-the-Lake. Preceded by an early morning breakfast reception, the retreat provided mentors and mentees an opportunity to deepen their connections with a full day of team building activities and inspirational speakers.
Funded primarily by the Province of Ontario and in collaboration with several community, labour and industry partners, the NexGen Builders Mentoring Program offered Black youth, women and newcomers pursuing careers in construction with mentors who prepare them for success in the workplace. Through the program, TCBN seeks to address the need for more diversity in the skilled trades by facilitating valuable networking and professional development opportunities.
According to Membership Manager Michelle Francis: “Doors are finally opening for underrepresented groups in the construction industry, fuelled by massive public and private investments in infrastructure, including housing and a focus on green building, coupled with a mounting
labour shortage and the increased demand from the public for equity hiring through community benefits agreements. The annual NexGen Builders Mentoring Program Retreat was an opportunity for new construction apprentices and professionals to come together with a supportive network of community, labour and industry partners to learn from each other and forge lasting relationships as they navigate their career journey in an industry that has not always been welcoming.”
The retreat was hosted by TCBN in partnership with the Canada Green Building Council and pre-apprenticeship training delivery partners, Mohawk College, Building UP, Labour Education Centre, and TNO – Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office.
Rosemarie Powell, Executive Director of Toronto Community Benefits Network, commented: “The only way to create equitable opportunities in the construction industry for Black youth, women and newcomers, is for the industry to meaningfully participate in opening doors for those individuals. Networking and mentorship opportunities, like those created through NexGen Builders, is one example of what that participation can look like.”
Francis added, “The mentees in our programs are excited about the jobs and economic opportunities generated by investments in infrastructure and they are doing everything within their power to build skills needed to succeed. They need greater collaboration between government and the industry to create the conditions for them to achieve their career goals by making equity hiring a requirement in procurement contracts and ensuring compliance of the general contractors and subcontractors who make the hiring decisions.”
The retreat also served as the launch of a series of online Green Building Career Fairs that TCBN will host over the next seven months. As part of the Workforce 2030: Rapid Upskilling for Green Building Occupations project, the fairs will introduce job seekers to construction representatives with green priorities who are ready to recruit, train and hire.
The future, said Francis is bright: “The community benefits movement is growing. There is a deep level of commitment by all stakeholders to see greater diversity in the labourforce that is building the city. NexGen Builders need more mentors and construction unions and employers to come on board to provide opportunities, guidance and support.”
Toronto Community Benefits Network negotiates and supports the implementation of Community Benefits Agreements in the GTA, ensuring that publicly funded building projects include
jobs in construction trades for Black, Indigenous and other racialized workers, including youth, women and newcomers.
To date, through its efforts over 2,000 job seekers have pursued construction apprenticeships and professional careers through contractors and unions affiliated with the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, Finch West LRT, Casino Woodbine and West Park Healthcare Centre.