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Feds provide training funds for new recruits

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 804 in Breslau was the scene July 4 of the federal government’s announcement it will provide $5.5 million for training. [Veronica Reiner / The Observer]

Apprenticeship and training programs run by the Breslau-based local of the electrical workers’ union got a $5.5-million boost last week courtesy of the federal government.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union 804 will use the funds for its pre-apprentice training and retention innovative learning program. The organization expects to train 240 electrical apprentices over the next five years.

The federal program looks to help unions across Canada improve the quality of training through investments for equipment and materials, and support innovation and enhanced partnerships to boost  apprenticeship opportunities. The goal is to make training more accessible to allow more people to get into the trades.

“Participants will benefit from 10 weeks of classroom training, which includes learning hands-on practical skills and critical life safety precautions,” explained Local 804 business manager Mark Watson.

“The 10-week classroom training will be followed by 16 weeks of on-the-job training with a reputable contractor, before being registered as an apprentice, and ultimately becoming a licensed electrician.”

The investment has allowed the IBEW 804 to partner with Desire2Learn (D2L), a Kitchener-based software company, to create an accessible and interactive online learning platform to include in the program.

The program is aimed at those with no prior training experience to give them a solid footing on the road to a career in the trade.

“We recognize that cost can be a barrier for many of the underrepresented groups and therefore this program will be free to all successful applicants,” said Watson.

The IBEW was founded more than a century ago, with the local chapter formed in 1942. IBEW 804 represents some 1,100 electricians and apprentices from Waterloo Region and surrounding areas such as Wellington, Perth, Dufferin, Bruce and Grey counties.

The local is responsible for approximately $600,000 of the cost, along with any unforeseen future expenses.

Waterloo MP Bardish Chagger delivered the news July 4 at the union hall. During the announcement, she said the funding would provide better access to groups who are typically underrepresented in the trades, such as women, military veterans, Indigenous people, and new immigrants to Canada.

“Challenges that women face to entering the trades include barriers caused by lack of mentors and role models, difficulty finding an employer, discrimination, unwelcoming workplaces, and family obligations,” said Chagger. “Indigenous peoples also face similar barriers in addition to others, such as lack of essential skills, lack of awareness, geographic barriers, and insufficient financial support to continue training.

“The trades are essential. These are good jobs; these are skills that will always be needed.”

The funding comes from the $25-million Union Training and Innovation Program, which is divided into two streams: the first is geared towards investments and training equipment, and the second is the innovation and apprentice stream.

Others attending had the chance to share their personal experiences in the skilled trades, and the importance of supporting the industry as a primary career choice.

“We do have some shortages in the trades sometimes; my area, in particular, there’s some machinists that there are shortages of, and welders. We looked at that through our committee to try to fill in those gaps in our workforce,” said Marwan Tabbara, MP for Kitchener South-Hespeler.

Ottawa is also spending $6 million over two years to create a national campaign to promote the skilled trades as a first-choice career for young people, part of a series of budget measures to in support of apprenticeships and the trades.

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