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Province allocates $1M for Indigenous trades training

NORCAT, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union starting heavy equipment operator, electrical trades training program this fall
Electrical workers
(International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union photo)

Two construction-related projects have received more than $1 million in provincial funding to train and upgrade the skills of Indigenous people living in remote communities.

In an Aug. 13 news release, the Ontario government said it's provided training funds to deliver free instruction to 645 people in Northern Ontario for "in-demand" construction jobs in heavy equipment operation and in the electrical trades.

Sudbury's technology and innovation centre, NORCAT, received $582,000 to start training 20 participants, beginning in September, with the skills and safety training to operate heavy earthmoving, forestry and mining machinery.

Trainees will receive free in-class and hands-on training over a period of five-to-six weeks at NORCAT’s forest and mining operations in Thunder Bay, with free lodging and transportation to and from the training site.

The training begins Sept. 13 and runs to Dec. 3.

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The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 1687 (IBEW 1687) received $467,500 for a virtual training centre for upgrading instruction for 625 electrical workers across remote Northern and First Nations communities. 

The money bought audio visual equipment and assisted in the development of an online safety and equipment training, leadership and business skills curriculum for powerline technicians, network cabling specialists, electrical apprentices and journeypersons. Classes will be live-streamed and videotaped for workers without high-speed internet.

The training begins Nov. 1.

The money comes out of the province's $115-million Skills Development Fund.

According to the province, in 2020, the unemployment rate for Indigenous people in Ontario was 12.5 per cent compared with 9.5 per cent for non-Indigenous people. These unemployment rates went up from 9.7 per cent and 5.5 per cent, respectively, in 2019.

"There are thousands of well-paying and rewarding jobs in the resource sector just waiting to be filled by people with the right skills,” said Labour, Training and Skills Development Minister Monte McNaughton in the news release. “These projects will connect people with the training they need to restart their careers, earn bigger paycheques for their families and boost development in Northern Ontario’s resource sector.”

In a statement, NORCAT CEO Don Duval said the funding will help address the skilled labour shortage and provide new workers to the mining, forestry, and construction industries. 

"Collectively, these industries play an integral role in driving our province’s economic prosperity and our training programs, funded in part by the Skills Development Fund, will enable us to provide hands-on experiential training and prepare workers for meaningful, safe, and sustainable careers."

IBEW 1687 Business Manager and Financial Secretary Travis Merrett said with this opportunity, "we will now be able to provide at-home and on-the-job upgrade training for all our members through our state-of-the-art virtual training centre, including many First Nations communities, regardless of where they reside. Funding from the Ontario Government will allow us to tackle the challenges ahead."