Skilled Trades Council delegates discuss removal of barriers and protection of Skilled Trades jobs

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Skilled Trades delegates from across the country met to discuss issues, including shortages of Skilled Tradespeople, barriers to women entering the trades, work to expand apprenticeship programs while ensuring qualification standards, and protection of Skilled Trades work at the National Skilled Trades Council in Niagara Falls, Ontario on February 9-11.

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"We continue to push back to make sure that we are not allowing our provincial jurisdictions to water down Skilled Trades qualifications. We need to make sure we have a voice to set the path forward on apprenticeship programs," said Unifor National Skilled Trades Chair Dave Cassidy.

In his report to delegates, he stressed the need for Skilled Tradespeople to be politically active to expand and protect the trades and the importance of the union’s ongoing work to push for Employment Insurance reform.

Delegates were updated on Unifor’s recent $300,000 donation to the ‘Women in Red Seal Trades – Advancing the Career Ecosystem’ program, in partnership with Sheridan, St. Clair, Fanshawe and Durham Colleges. The project supports initiatives to attract women to careers in the Skilled Trades, obtain apprenticeships with employers and support them through their qualification journey. 

“We know that the workforce is overwhelmingly white and male and that there are many barriers that prevent diverse groups of women and non-binary folks from entering the Skilled Trades,” said Unifor National Secretary-Treasurer Len Poirier. 
“We know that those barriers have nothing to do with technical ability and everything to do with systems and biases that aren’t up to the task of enabling the diverse skilled trades workforce Canada needs.”

The theme of union outreach and education on the Skilled Trades was also addressed by Unifor Atlantic Regional Director Jennifer Murray in her speech to delegates.

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“We will work together to make sure that people, especially young people, deciding where they want to work understand how cool many jobs working in the trades are and obviously how working in a unionized job is the only way to go,” said Murray. 

Murray shared the inspiring story of Atlantic members’ work to help The Humanity Project build 20 tiny homes to shelter unhoused people and support those dealing with mental illness and addiction in Little River, New Brunswick.

“Just because people live differently than we do, doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve love and respect and to be treated with kindness and dignity,” said Murray. “Together, we have changed lives and we have created a unique friendship between the Humanity Project and Unifor.”

Delegates passionately participated in discussion about the Skilled Trades ratification process and delivered verbal reports to provide updates on the current conditions, experiences, and challenges that Skilled Trades members in their workplaces across the country are facing.

In his report, Unifor Skilled Trades Director John Breslin said the union continues to work towards the goal of a Pan-Canadian apprenticeship program with the aim for Unifor journeypersons to hold seats on jurisdiction apprentice boards across the country.

Delegates applauded Unifor National Skilled Trades Chair Dave Cassidy on receiving the St. Clair College Alumni of Distinction Award for his contribution to Skilled Trades and Apprenticeships. Cassidy graduated in 1991 from the Electrician Construction Maintenance Program and is being honoured as a graduate of the college’s apprenticeship program. An awards dinner ceremony will take place in April in Windsor and honourees from across the province will meet in Toronto in November where one recipient in each category will be chosen as the Premier’s Award winner.

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The Bob Chernecki Charity of Choice was awarded to Renewed Computer Technology, accompanied by a $4,000 donation by Council to support the non-profit organization’s work to provide access to information and communications technology to under resourced communities to help bridge the digital divide.

The next national Skilled Trades Council will take place in Surrey, British Columbia June 7-9, 2024.





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Kathleen O'Keefe

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