Currently only 1.2% of Ontario’s apprentices are represented by racialized individuals in the construction industry. Through Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) Black Youth are slowly being hired onto the construction sites of large Canadian infrastructure projects. CBAs are also opening opportunities for small to medium sized businesses interested in penetrating the Canadian construction supply chain.
On Tuesday, December 12, the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN) hosted a breakfast to officially launch their Black Youth Mentoring Program. The plan applies a 2-pronged approach to changing the narrative around Black Youth. The first piece will mentor qualified Black Youth construction workers apprenticing in the trades known as the “Next-Gen-Builders” program. The second part will enhance the skills of a Black Youth consultancy known as the BYD Team. The goal of BYD Team is to fulfil on current and grow future construction industry social procurement strategies.
The Black Youth Mentoring Program Launch, which took place in the beautiful University of Toronto Faculty Club, was a fantastic experience. It was amazing to be in that room where high level representatives from the construction trades and industry professionals, mingled with equity seeking community members. It was especially refreshing to hear some of the Black Youth apprentices recently welcomed into the Canadian construction industry, speak of reluctance replaced by optimism through TCBN’s new mentoring program. Also interesting was hearing Pat Dillon, Business Manager and Secretary Treasurer of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario, voice his support for TCBN and community efforts by recommending they approach the struggle “more aggressively”. With high profile support from the likes of Dillon, community must be optimistic that integrating the construction industry in the lifetime of today’s youth is a real possibility, right?
Also inspiring were the words of Grover Johnson, Vice President of the American chapter of LiUNA’s African American Caucus. Grover’s words clearly indicated the American Community Benefits movement is far ahead of our own. In his home state of Washington, they have progressed beyond the need to negotiate a CBA for every capital project, it is now policy. They now move directly to Workforce Development Agreements. It really goes to show that what we hear so frequently in the news about our neighbours to the south may be the cries from a group of reactionaries who are in their final death throes. These are certainly exciting times for the Canadian community benefits movement.