Kitchener, Ontario, Local 804 is getting some help from the federal government in the form of approximately $5.5 million for its pre-apprenticeship program.
“This is a fantastic achievement,” said Local 804 Business Manager Mark Watson. “To have the federal government support our proposal shows the confidence they have in us and recognizes the IBEW as a premier venue to train the workers of tomorrow.”
The funding comes from the Union Training and Innovation Program via two streams: the Investments in Training Equipment Stream, which the local used to purchase two elevated work platforms; and the Innovation in Apprenticeship Stream, which included the development of an online training platform to supplement the other aspects of the curriculum.
Local 804 is also using the funding to reach out to traditionally underrepresented groups like women, indigenous people and military veterans.
“In order to diversify our workforce and meet future demands we all need to play an active role,” Watson said. “This program removes many of the barriers that prevent potential applicants from beginning their career in the electrical trade.”
The goal is to train at least 20% of individuals from those communities, a target the local achieved with its first cohort earlier this year, said business representative Dave Graham.
“We’ve been actively reaching out to the key groups in our area, and we’re promoting it on social media and our website as well,” Graham said. “We’re happy to have met our targets with our first cohort and it’s our intention to keep improving our outreach.”
The 1,100-member local had a pre-apprenticeship program before, but it was only able to offer essential training and on a smaller scale, Watson said. It also helped them develop the proposal for the federal funding.
“We had the ideas and the motivation, but we were missing the funding to bring everything together,” Watson said. “This program is a game changer for us.”
The funding, which started in February and will run through 2024, is being used to pay for two full-time instructors and administrative staff as well as teaching materials, including online resources, Graham said. The first group of 16, started in June and went through 10 weeks of in-class training and a 16-week job placement.
Graham says there are two main components to a successful pre-apprenticeship program: training — safety and trade-related hands on experience — and employment.
“Without the employment at the end of the program, we would be wasting everyone’s time,” Graham said. “Through the support from the Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario, we are able to guarantee the success of our program.”
Local 804 will train a total of 240 apprentices. Graham says they had 108 applicants for their second cohort, which began on Oct. 7.
“We always had this vision of where we would like our local to go, but without this funding it may never have happened,” Graham said.
Nine other locals received funding as well: Hamilton, Ontario, Local 105; Vancouver, British Columbia, Local 213 via its Electrical Joint Training Committee; the Western Joint Electrical Training Society, which includes Victoria, British Columbia, Local 230; Edmonton, Alberta, Local 424 and its Electrical Joint Industry Training Committee; Halifax, Nova Scotia, Local 625; Kamloops, British Columbia, Local 993 and Nelson, British Columbia, Local 1003; Regina, Saskatchewan, Local 2038 and Winnipeg, Manitoba, Local 2085.
The Union Training and Innovation Program provides $25 million annually to support union-based apprenticeship training, innovation and enhanced partnerships in the Red Seal trades.
“This investment is wonderful news for the Waterloo region community and will unlock opportunities for underrepresented groups to participate more fully in the skilled trades,” said Raj Saini, Member of Parliament for Kitchener Centre. “Supporting the skilled trades through investments in apprenticeship training will help everyone in our community compete, succeed and thrive in a rapidly changing economy.”