Converting a job into a career as skilled tradesman

di Joe Volpe del January 24, 2020

TORONTO - Tired of hearing or reading about violence, youth gone wild, family and societal dysfunction, unemployment/underemployment, purposeless educational system and indifference from our political leadership?

Here’s a breath of fresh air: There are people and institutions who use available resources and talent to work towards solutions. They need press/media to tell their story. Corriere Canadese started doing its part by attending an Open House Information Session co-sponsored by the Carpenters Union (local 27), the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN), the Ontario Construction Consortium and the City of Toronto.

The organizers “didn’t leave anybody out”.

Forty (40) community associations, almost exclusively not- for profit agencies whose primary focus is the integration of “youth at risk” (today, largely aboriginal and/or visible minorities originating from Caribbean, African or Greater Middle Eastern countries – remember when they used to be Italian?) through job action were brought together under the umbrella of the TCBN.

All the Carpenters’ Trades Unions Locals (including those from “rival” LIUNA Locals 183 and 506) shared their experience and perspective on the developing marketplace and the training of labour to service it and make it competitive. There are 29 apprenticeship training centres in the GTA – 21 ažliated with the Carpenters.

Current and former Political figures from all three political parties lent their support or made presentations (MPP Faisal Hassan, Phil Gillies, and Zanana Akande).

All speakers underlined the urgency of engaging the TBCN’s “partner agencies” from a social desirability point of view and from a labour perspective. No one asked for a handout, everyone underscored the cultural/economic importance of a multi-faceted approach to sensitizing the various levels of government: place a dollar value on the merits of a trained, professional, labour force to meet the needs of the only expanding economic driver in the province: the construction industry.

The president of TCBN, Rosemarie Powell, argued that it makes sense to attach significant number of jobs available to winners in the bid processes for approximately $1.6 Billion in Toronto City procurement for graduates of these training programs.

Chris Campbell, Paul Day and Sean Blake struck a note of urgency when they pointed out that “human resources are hard to come by”. Yet, after the provincial education system walked away from skills training in their publicly funded schools, the shortage of trained, skilled, safe workforce has never been so severe.

The need is urgent, claimed the keynote speaker, economist John O’Grady. There is already a 15% shortage of skilled labour in the construction industry. It’s a sector that is already functioning at full capacity and in boom mode, he maintained. As a back-up he pointed to some graphic statistics: fully a quarter of all construction cranes operating in North America are currently active in 120 sits in the GTA. New York City is second with 49 operating cranes.

How will it be possible to sustain this level of activity when studies indicate that, within ten years, the sector will have experienced a labour shortage of 100,000 trained workers – that’s 10,000 per year. To add woe to misery, 18% of current workers in the sector are on track to retire within those next ten years, he said. Yet, while youth at risk are either unemployed or underemployed, there is no end to the potential available through the sector for dignity granting, financially satisfying career opportunities in the Trades.

Money always tends to focus the mind. Infrastructure Ontario is investing more than $65 Billion (in active procurement, pre procurement in the planning stage). Who will bring them to market without the required career-oriented Skilled Tradesmen and Tradeswomen?

It’s the rhetorical challenge Carpenters and TCBN put out to the participating agencies and Construction Industry representatives. The answer, self-evident, therefore not required.

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