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Construction industry has been a success story during COVID-19, RESCON AGM told
March 2nd, 2021 11:42 am     A+ | a-

By Grant Cameron
 
Ontario Labour, Training and Skills Development Minister Monte McNaughton and Children and Women’s Issues Associate Minister Jill Dunlop spoke at RESCON’s annual general meeting on Feb. 25.
 
McNaughton was first up at the virtual meeting and thanked RESCON members for coming together and working with his team at the ministry to support the construction sector and keep it open.
 
“Together we kept most of construction open safely,” he said. “In those early days of COVID-19, there were a number of people in groups calling for us to shut down construction. We took a different approach. Instead of just putting 500,000 people out of work, including 65,000 women, we decided to do something different. We reached out to industry partners like RESCON, with contractors, labour leaders, workers, to take a different path to come together and produce guidelines.
 
“The very first health and safety guidelines regarding COVID-19 were in the construction sector, so I’m really proud of the record in construction.”
 
McNaughton said the construction industry has been a success story during COVID-19 and those who work in the sector should be proud.
 
“You kept working and helped families right across Ontario put roofs over their heads.”
 
McNaughton also talked about actions taken to address health and safety on worksites, noting that another 100 inspectors have been hired and 20,000 jobsites were inspected over the last year.
 
He told the meeting that government is also investing in apprenticeship programs and trying to make the system easier to navigate, and is working to break the stigma attached to the skilled trades.
 
Dunlop took to the virtual stage after McNaughton.
 
She said RESCON and the construction industry are champions for a stronger and more diverse skilled trades sector and bringing economic opportunity to underrepresented Ontarians, including women.
 
The minister said it is clear there’s an urgency to increase the economic empowerment of women, as a report by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board late last year cited the COVID-19 pandemic for pushing women’s participation in the Canadian labour force to a three-decade low.
 
The government budget last fall also reported that one-third of Canadian women are thinking about leaving the workforce, she said, but “we are determined that women will not be left behind as Ontario reopens.”
 
Dunlop said the government is working on increasing the presence of women in key economic sectors where great careers and good salaries can be found – and that includes Ontario’s construction industry.
 
“Our message is that there is no better time than right now for girls and women to get involved,” she said.
 
Presently, women make up about seven per cent of skilled trades in Ontario, so more must be done to raise awareness of the great opportunities that are available to women and girls, Dunlop noted.
 
“An obvious place to build this awareness is in the elementary and secondary school systems. Encouraging girls to see themselves in these incredible careers needs to start early in schools, highlighting the opportunities, building needed skills, and showcasing the incredible women who are blazing the path for our future.”
 
Dunlop said she appreciates the initiatives that RESCON has undertaken to encourage and recruit a diverse group of people to a sector that will always be in demand.
 
“Our shared goal is increasing economic empowerment for women and a stronger and more diverse skilled trades sector in Ontario.”
 
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