RC105 MarApr2023 - Magazine - Page 42
by Rosemarie Powell
VIDENCED BY THE hundreds of construction cranes dotting
the landscape of cities across Canada, construction is a
prime economic driver worth $150 billion annually and
accounting for 7.3 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic
product (GDP). The sector also employs more than 1.6
million people in Canada, with additional spin-off jobs
in its supply chain.
As we seek to recover from the pandemic, all levels of
government are investing heavily in infrastructure to fuel
the economy. These conditions have resulted in a significant
demand for skilled workers in construction; jobs are available now because of this and due to retirement for many in
the industry. However, the pipeline is drying up.
The opportunity is ripe for community, labour, and industry to work together to build an employment pathway that
seamlessly attracts and connects “tool-ready” job seekers to
employment opportunities across all construction projects.
Despite knowing about the demand for more workers,
the construction industry has not kept pace with the need to
train and develop the next generation of builders. Systemic
and structural inequities have prevented many workers
from Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities from getting into a construction pathway. Those
same inequities can also cause those who do enter to drop
off at any point of their journey.
Strong public pressure from residents in neighbourhoods
and cities across Canada has led to the increased use of community benefits agreements (CBAs) in government projects.
CBAs facilitate the inclusion of local and diverse workers
and are very economically beneficial for publicly funded
CBAs provide good jobs and economic opportunities for
historically disadvantaged communities and equity deserving groups. Essentially, they are the supplemental social and
economic benefits arising from a development project that
are intended to improve the well-being of a community affected by the project. These benefits are defined through an
inclusive community engagement process, and tend to include construction apprenticeships and professional, administrative, and technical jobs, as well as social procurement
and neighbourhood and environmental improvements. The
process of negotiating CBAs ensures community voice at the
planning, decision-making, and oversight table, and it sets
the groundwork for clear commitments and accountability
from all parties to deliver (implement, monitor, track, report,
and evaluate) the CBA.
While CBAs are becoming the standard in the industry,
to date, the industry’s focus on equity and diversity in the
trades has been limited to increasing the participation of
women, youth, and Indigenous workers. While these efforts
are starting to show success, there is still a need to further
expand efforts to include more Black and racialized communities, with a focus on women, youth, and newcomers.
RENEW CANADA – MARCH/APRIL 2023
TCBN’s NextGen Builders Mentorship Program prepares workers who have been historically
underrepresented in the construction industry enter the workforce.
Imagine the possibilities with similar community
benefits initiatives implemented across Canada.
Along with this commitment, it is essential that a robust
tracking, monitoring, and evaluation system be put in place.
When CBAs are codified in contract language that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound, the
industry will be better able to meet the demand for skilled
workers by hiring from groups that have been historically
overlooked. Specific strategies and deliverables can be established to ensure a coordinated pathway that will attract,
prepare, and support these job seekers to find work in the
CBAs and the intentional development of strategic partnerships as part of the negotiations process have resulted in
more than 2,000 job seekers pursuing construction apprenticeships and professional careers through contractors and
unions with obligations to CBAs, specifically those on the
Eglinton Crosstown LRT, Finch West LRT, Casino Woodbine,
and West Park Healthcare Centre, all under construction or
completed in the Toronto area.
Rosemarie Powell is the executive director
of the Toronto Community Benefits Network