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A construction trades workforce that reflects Canada
Thursday, August 16, 2018

View From Ottawa

By Bob Blakely - CEO for Canada’s Building Trades Unions

This time last year I wrote that we will need to replace 248,000 craftspeople within the next 10 years to replace the Baby Boom generation going into retirement. Many would think this was an insurmountable challenge. However, many people such as me look at it as a tremendous opportunity to breathe new life into our Canada’s Building Trades Unions’ family as we continue the long tradition of building Canada.

Canada 30 years ago, in comparison to today, was very different. We now have a very diverse population across the country. This diversity makes Canada a stronger country, one that is loved and admired around the world. If our country has grown in diversity, then we need to adapt as well. We have said on many occasions that diversity brings strength and diverse workers bring many gifts to our workplaces. I commend the leadership of our provincial councils that are turning this challenge into great opportunities.

Now, more than in the past, we have a federal government and many provincial governments that want to partner with trade unions to train the skilled workforce of tomorrow. A few weeks ago we joined Patty Hajdu, the minister of employment, workforce and labour, as she announced the federal government’s financial contribution of nearly $950,000 towards improving training equipment at the centre in Morrisburg, Ontario. The minister was also very impressed that several of the students were women from Indigenous communities. We have 175 training centres across Canada where we have built a strong reputation in training today’s tradespeople. With a federal government ready to be a partner and the building trades having training centres from coast to coast, just imagine how many more of these great stories we will create!

We see competitors who are trying to gain some ground on our turf so never be shy to tell our story. It is a successful one. And I challenge every provincial council to continue the progressive journey that we have all embarked upon in making our building trades family ready for tomorrow. The Trudeau government has noticed! That is why many of the principles that the building trades unions believe in were reflected in the federal budget.

When the finance minister started his budget speech by talking about a woman who began her studies in a special events coordination program at Algonquin College but ended up completing her studies in plumbing I knew the federal government understood that trades people are the backbone of the middle class in this country.

There were more than just stories in the budget speech; there were concrete items we need to applaud. Here are a few examples of the budget investments in trades that were announced:

  • $19.5 million over five years for the Apprenticeship Incentive Grant for Women, $3,000 in each of the first two years, $2,000 for completion 
  • $46 million over five years for the Pre- Apprenticeship Program to encourage people to enter the trades
  • $10 million over three years for a Women in Construction Fund to help mentor women in the trades
  • $25 million per year for the Union Training & Innovation Fund to financially assist various training opportunities like the one in Morrisburg, Ontario

These initiatives are valuable to the building trades unions and we are happy that the federal government has recognized they are important to Canadians as well.

However, we must continue to work hard if we are going to meet our challenges for tomorrow. Not only do we need to continue our work in promoting women in trades, we also need to be innovative in welcoming Indigenous people, new Canadians, underemployed youth and persons with disabilities. We have made tremendous strides with Helmets to Hardhats, where people finish their military service and we provide them with opportunities to enter the construction trades. This is something that you should be extremely proud of as part of our national organization.

This year’s Canada’s Building Trades Unions legislative conference, themed “Diversity, Inclusion, Respect — CBTU Leading the Way,” will highlight what we know; that Building Trades Unions are on the right path in growing our membership, a membership that will continue to grow this great country of ours, Canada!

Contact the BC Building Trades office
(778) 397-2220

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