#BIPOCinConstruction Campaign to be launched November 1
By Amina Dibe
Last September, RESCON officially launched the Anti-Racism Roundtable. This roundtable, chaired by me, is made up of 52 members, which includes RESCON members (residential builders/developers), residential and infrastructure subtrades, unions, training providers (secondary and post-secondary), employment agencies, health and safety professionals, and the provincial government.
We’ve established three subcommittees through the roundtable: workplace policies; training and education; and marketing and communications. In both general roundtable meetings and subcommittee meetings, RESCON policy and programs analyst Ahd AlAshry and I continuously heard a common concern among all members – “How do we attract more diverse youth into the construction industry and skilled trades?”
We know that by 2031, in Ontario alone, 100,000 construction workers will need to be recruited and trained to offset retirements from the industry. We also know that traditional recruitment methods alone will no longer be sufficient to sustain our workforce. Looking at the general labour pool, we find a real opportunity to sustain our workforce by reaching out to underrepresented groups – including youth from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) communities.
Towards informing our efforts to attract BIPOC youth to our industry, we launched the BIPOC Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) this past April through the Training and Education subcommittee. This YAC gave us first-hand insight into the experiences of BIPOC youth just getting started in construction. When asked about how they got into the industry, most of them noted a lack of clear outreach and promotion about careers in construction. Moreover, once they got on jobsites, they noticed that not many workers looked like them.
Hearing both these points led us to create the #BIPOCinConstruction campaign to highlight the diverse voices in our industry in an effort to attract more BIPOC youth into construction. The campaign officially launches next week – November 1 – to line up with National Skilled Trades and Technology Week and National Construction Day on November 3.
Over the summer and early fall, we interviewed over 10 BIPOC workers in construction – spanning subsectors of the industry (ICI, residential) and from both construction management and trades roles, to gather testimonials about their experience working in the industry as racialized people.
We heard from Shaynne Harper, a construction craft worker apprentice in residential high-rise forming. He joined the industry through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program for grade 12 students and later joined the Construction Craft Worker program at the LiUNA Local 183 Training Centre. Shaynne’s dad was a welder, and many of those around him growing up were in the trades too, which always inspired him to join the industry. When asked about what he likes about the job, he said, “Having a hardworking and collaborative crew and a mentoring foreman makes the work less of a job and more of a hobby and seeing the result after all the hard work you and your crew put in is my favourite part of the job.”
We also heard from MJ, a concrete former with Local 27. She grew up in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. She had family members who worked in the construction industry, but despite all the family ties, getting into the industry in Canada and having someone give her a chance was very difficult.
However, she was able to get her first opportunity through Toronto Youth Job Corps and has been in the industry since. When asked about what inspires her as a woman in construction, she noted, “Seeing another girl on site and how she rocked and rolled like crazy made me know that I can do it … it helped me believe in myself.” She also noted that when dealing with difficult situations and difficult people on site, the best thing to do is speak up and make sure you have a mentor. She has had multiple mentors that have provided advice and guided her on her career journey. She noted it also helps when mentors and the people you work with on site look like you.
To hear more testimonials from BIPOC workers in construction, head to RESCON’s Twitter site (https://twitter.com/_RESCON) next week.
We are encouraging roundtable members to share the testimonials on social media, in upcoming newsletters, and use them in future career outreach and promotion. These testimonials can be shared with school boards, teachers, guidance councillors, and students – and we hope they raise awareness about careers in construction and that construction is a welcoming industry for BIPOC youth.
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