Filling the skilled trades gap
A pilot project to train people from the Tsimshian Nation and guide them into a construction apprenticeship has successfully found placements for all 15 participants.
The Gitxaala Enhanced Construction Craft Worker Pilot Program (E-CCW) saw all its trainees graduate on Feb. 12, and within a month they are expected to begin work for the second phase of the program where they begin collecting apprenticeship hours towards their Red Seal endorsement, an interprovincial standard for skilled trades.
Construction craft work involves utility pipe installation, placing concrete, road construction and guiding operators in moving equipment, to name a few occupations. Potential employers include municipalities, general contractors and oil and gas companies.
The multi-partnered program was led by the Industry Training Authority (ITA) that saw an opportunity with the expansion of the port and pending liquefied natural gas development to meet the need for trades training in construction work.
The Construction Craft Worker Program is the newest Red Seal program in B.C., said the ITA apprenticeship advisor, Crystal Bouchard, who was visibly moved at the graduation when she heard that all participants were matched with jobs.
“It’s been a labour of love,” Bouchard said. The training was 10 weeks in total and began in November when the weather was particularly stormy when coordinating transportation from the Gitxaala community to job sites. She said other challenges were getting people in the right positions for the partners and getting funding.
The Construction Craft Worker Pilot Program had several partners to implement finances, recruit and coordinate job placement, offer skills and technical training and to provide apprenticeship work. The process involved the Gitxaala Nation, Coast Educational Development and Research (CEDAR), the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology and Coast Industrial Construction.
The course had 80 per cent on-the-job training and 20 per cent classroom training. The graduates now have to complete 4,000 workplace hours in two levels of technical training and then pass the interprovincial exam to earn their Red Seal certification.
One of the graduates, Joel Dunnes, appreciated the essential skills section of the program where he could update his reading and math skills.
“I’ve been a labourer most of my life. Bigger contractors are coming here and looking for labourers,” Dunnes said. “I want a career not just a job.”
The Gitxaala Nation hosted the program in Kitkatla and hereditary chief Timothy Innes spoke to the graduates and told them their achievement was “something to be proud of. You’ve done this part and now you have to reach out beyond that”.