The Electrical Worker online
May 2021

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Federal Funding Enhances Training,
Opens Doors to More Members

IBEW local unions in Canada received millions in funding as part of the federal government's Union Training Innovation Program to support union-based apprenticeship training.

The grants were awarded for programs judged to be innovative and that enhanced partnerships with Red Seal trades. Local unions receiving funds were Kingston, Ontario, Local 115; Victoria, British Columbia, Local 230; Toronto Local 353; Thunder Bay, Ontario, Local 402; Edmonton, Alberta, Local 424; Saint John, New Brunswick, Local 502; Ottawa Local 586; Halifax, Nova Scotia, Local 625; Kitchener, Ontario, Local 804; Kamloops, British Columbia, Local 993; and Regina, Saskatchewan, Local 2038.

In addition, all local unions in the western provinces jointly received funding to provide training for their construction electricians to receive endorsements for large generator motor winding.

Local 230 again received funding through the Western Joint Electrical Training Society for its Workplace Alternative Trades Training program, which has brought in traditionally underrepresented groups into the IBEW. The local received $4.2 million in total.

Business Manager Phil Venoit said the program, known as WATT, had about 100 participants in a pre-apprenticeship program during its first year. Of those, 93 went on to full apprenticeships. The vast majority became Local 230 members, with some becoming members of Local 993 or Nelson, British Columbia, Local 1003.

Venoit, who was recently appointed to the International Executive Council, noted that WATT is an example of the IBEW meeting its commitments to diversity and inclusion expressed in resolutions passed at the 2016 International Convention.

"The government looks for programs that lead from training to direct hire and we provide that link," he said. "We are the answer to that. We can do all the training, then dispatch people to work."

All the local unions went through a thorough review process, many with the help of the National Electrical Trade Council, which also received funding as part of the UTIP program. First District International Vice President Thomas Reid is president of the council, which supports and protects the Red Seal trades and the entire electrical industry in Canada.

"The level of innovation achieved by all our local unions exceeded my expectations," Reid said. "I want to extend my personal gratitude to all our brothers and sisters who took part in the process. I also want to thank NETCO executive director Melissa Young, who was invaluable during the process, and to the federal government for the faith it showed in the IBEW and our track record of training highly skilled electrical workers across the country.

"Now the important work begins. The pandemic has reinforced the need for all of us to adapt quickly in the rapidly-changing electrical industry. A major piece of that is ensuring apprenticeship programs and continuing education for our electricians remain top notch."

Local 804 received $5.5 million and used it to fund its pre-apprenticeship training. It allowed it to purchase smart boards, laptops and motors for motor training. Business Manager Brian Jacobs said UTIP funding in previous years allowed it to purchase two elevated work platforms.

"We explained that our pre-apprenticeship program allows new and underrepresented workers into the workforce without any barriers," Jacobs said. "The funding covers all their training, tools and material. There is nothing a pre-apprentice has to pay for."

In Atlantic Canada, Local 625 shares its training center with the Laborers, Painters and Iron Workers. It has worked in conjunction with those unions to receive UTIP funds in the past that allowed it to buy an $81,000 boom lift and a $21,000 scissor lift. This past year, Local 625 solely applied for $55,000 worth of equipment to bend conduit up to 4 inches in diameter, Business Manager Thomas Griffiths said.

The conduit training will assist Local 625's signatory contractors as they begin work on hospital projects valued at about $3 billion. Because of a rash of retirements, getting young workers trained quickly is crucial, Griffiths said.

This year's UTIP funding was announced with the specter of a national election likely to be called. The IBEW has had a productive relationship with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government. IVP Reid has had several meetings with Trudeau since the pandemic began, including two this year to discuss priorities important to IBEW members leading up to the federal budget.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government awarded millions in UTIP funding to IBEW local unions in Canada.