The Ontario government is investing an additional $21 million in pre-apprenticeship training programs for up to 2,000 people, including at-risk youth, new Canadians, Indigenous peoples and women, to help them pursue the hands-on experience they need to begin rewarding careers in the skilled trades. Eligible organizations can apply for the funding now, with the call for proposals ending on January 5, 2021.

Details were announced Friday at Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 837 by Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, and Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues.

“Before COVID-19, the tremendous development and growth in our province was leading to a labour shortage, with Ontario’s construction sector needing 100,000 more workers to meet its needs over the next decade,” said McNaughton. “As we continue to lay the groundwork for our economic recovery, we are preparing people for fulfilling careers in the skilled trades while building the workforce that will help us get the economic engine of Canada roaring again.”

Pre-apprenticeship training programs last up to one year and combine classroom training with an eight- to 12-week work placement. Last year this program helped train 1,800 people in 91 programs across the province, including 11 in Hamilton.

Training is free for participants and always includes a paid work placement. Eligible union and non-union training centres, colleges, employment agencies and other community organizations can submit their training proposals now.

“We know that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on the social and economic well-being of women,” said Dunlop. “Encouraging people of all genders and backgrounds to pursue the skilled trades will help our economy get back on track and will ensure that women are not left behind in the process.”

LiUNA Local 837 represents 4,000 workers in Hamilton and Niagara Region, and received approximately $106,000 last year to provide pre-apprenticeship training for 12 participants in construction craft worker and cement finishing trades.

“Today’s announcement reflects Minister McNaughton’s steadfast commitment to the men and women who build Ontario,” said Joseph Mancinelli, LiUNA International vice president and regional manager of Central and Eastern Canada. “LiUNA Training, specifically pre-apprenticeship training, is a gateway to building a rewarding career in the skilled trades. Together with government and our industry partners we must continue to highlight the vast opportunities in the skilled trades. Today’s announcement highlights critical funding to continue building a highly skilled, inclusive workforce, while transitioning out of precarious work and into middle-class income. LiUNA represents over 100,000 highly skilled and diverse members across the province of Ontario at the centre of community building, and we look forward to continuing to expand, modernizing apprenticeship training programs and empowering communities through the skilled trades.”

Pre-apprenticeship training is a key part of the province’s 2020 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover, announced in November. As part of the Action Plan, the government’s Skilled Trades Strategy will help support economic recovery by breaking the stigma of the skilled trades, simplifying the system, and encouraging more women to get into the skilled trades.