December 10, 2021
I’VE BEEN WRITING for Tradetalk for a long time. Sometimes under my own name. Sometimes co-authoring with a labour leader or two and sometimes under an alias if I was tackling a particularly salacious issue.
I’ve always found writing for Tradetalk easy. I feel passionate about many of the topics we cover, from asbestos to community initiatives, sanitation, and the projects we build. The stories have always
come so easily, except apparently for this issue – where the story is partly my own.
Taking on this new role had me thinking about what to say in this apprenticeship issue after 10 years working to advance apprenticeship with the BC Building Trades – first as a researcher, then as a director and now as the executive director.
I recently went back to review the minutes from my first BC Building Trades Apprenticeship & Training Co-ordinators meeting in the spring of 2012. In that first meeting, co-ordinators talked about the lack of training funds and the struggle to provide quality training. That year, the 2012/2013 provincial budget for the Industry Training Authority was $94 million. Fast-forward 10 years to last month’s Apprenticeship & Training Co-ordinators meeting and the funding struggle is the same. Not surprising as the budget for 2021/2022 is virtually unchanged from a decade ago with just $98 million allotted to the ITA.
Think of how little that really is. The average home price in Greater Vancouver is $1.265 million. So, the total provincial investment in our entire trades training system is about 77 Vancouver bungalows or a city block.
Filling that funding void has been a near impossible task. Your unions have invested millions of union dollars into propping up B.C.’s trades training system. I shudder to think what the “system” would look like without the advocacy of so many people across the BC Building Trades.
It’s incredible to think of the thousands upon thousands of apprentices who have taken their own rite of passage through our system because of the tireless work of our unions to mentor, support, and lift up apprentices, so none are left behind.
Over the past 10 years, many of the faces around the table have changed. At first, I was the only woman on the committee. But then came a sister from LiUNA, and then another from the carpenters and another from the ironworkers. All taking their place as strong and committed advocates for trades training.
While so many of our challenges have remained the same, a lot of the hard work of BC Building Trades unions and their training co-ordinators is starting to pay off. B.C. is bringing in skilled trades certification. I’m told the Industry Training Authority may actually receive a meaningful budget increase in Budget 2022/2023 to support the initiative.
Your unions have come together to launch a virtual campus with the College of the BC Building Trades. And we are diversifying the voices around the Building Trades – not just around the apprenticeship co-ordinator table. But also through the ranks of our membership and our apprenticeship system. BC Building Trades affiliates rank among the top sponsors of women and Indigenous people. As I take my own personal rite of passage into this new role; I’m optimistic of what the next 10 years will bring.
By Brynn Bourke
In November 2021, Brynn Bourke was selected to be the permanent executive director of the BC Building Trades. Bourke is the first woman to lead the council in its more than 50-year history.