The Ontario government is investing over $1 million in two projects that will provide free training in construction to 645 people in Northern Ontario, prioritizing those from remote First Nations and Indigenous communities. These projects will prepare participants for in-demand jobs in the construction sector, including heavy equipment operator and electrical trades, addressing a skilled trades shortage in the local workforce.

“We’re seeing strong job growth across the province, and the North is no exception. 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 Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “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.”

This investment includes $582,000 for NORCAT to train 20 participants with the skills and safety training to operate machinery to build roads, move minerals and harvest forests. 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 their training site.

“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,” said Don Duval, CEO of NORCAT.

Additionally, Ontario is investing $467,500 for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 1687 (IBEW 1687) to develop a virtual training centre to teach 625 electrical workers across remote Northern and First Nations communities. Funding will support the purchase of audio visual (A/V) equipment and development of an online curriculum so that workers can receive safety and equipment training, leadership development and business skills to upgrade their skills in careers including powerline technicians, network cabling specialists, electrical apprentices and journeypersons. Classes will be live-streamed and videotaped for workers without high-speed internet.

“Thanks to the SDF 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,” said Travis Merrett, IBEW 1687 Business Manager and Financial Secretary. “The IBEW will now be able to provide our members with access to these important items. We are thankful for the opportunity and are looking forward to a workforce that is more skilled and knowledgeable for years to come.”

The funding comes as part of the government’s $115 million Skills Development Fund to address challenges to hiring, training and retraining workers and apprentices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As demand continues to grow for skilled labour in the north’s resources sector, our government is making targeted investments to help train and prepare the next generation of skilled tradespeople,” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry and Minister of Indigenous Affairs. “By prioritizing individuals from remote and Indigenous communities, we will help to meet the demand for skilled workers while equitably sharing the benefit of economic and employment opportunities.”

Featured image:  Monte McNaughton, left, Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, Don Duval, CEO of NORCAT (far right) with employees of NORCAT. (Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development)

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