First in Trades (FIT) is a 5 year pilot project funded by the Government of Canada's (ESDC) Union Training and Innovation Program (UTIP), and in partnership with the New Brunswick Building Trades Unions (NBBTU) and the Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI), to provide a meaningful training and employment experience to Indigenous peoples and increase the participation of Indigenous apprentices among the affiliate unions of the NB Building Trades.
A combination of an ageing workforce in skilled trades with an ageing Canadian infrastructure and a commitment by government to invest in infrastructure projects, coupled the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action, to "[e]nsure that [Indigenous] peoples have equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities" (Call to Action #92, TRC Final Report, June 2, 2015), has led to Indigenous employment and economic opportunities in construction trades.
What do we mean by a "skilled trade"? Skilled trades are occupations that require a special skill, knowledge or ability which can be obtained through specialized training, which includes a combination of on-the-job (80%) and technical block training (20%). Skilled trades usually fall within four main categories: Construction, Transportation, Manufacturing, and Service (Canadian Apprenticeship Forum 2018).
250,000 highly experienced skilled trades workers are expected to retire in Canada over the next 10 years, and it is estimated that New Brunswick will need to replace more than 7,400 workers expected to retire over the coming decade (BuildForce 2019).
The Indigenous population is young and the fastest growing in Canada. Over the next 10 years, about 400,000 young Indigenous people are expected to join the Indigenous working age. For the same time period, the Indigenous labour force aged 25-64 will grow four times more than the non- Indigenous labour force of the same age. In New Brunswick, four in ten (42%) Indigenous people are under the age of 25, compared with 27% of the non-Indigenous population.
Since Canada's construction and industry maintenance sector relies on a skilled trades workforce, which typically takes 5-7 years to train through apprenticeships, and national apprenticeship completion rates are only 40 to 50% among construction occupations , more emphasis is being put on increasing recruitment, progression through, and completion of, apprenticeship training.
Increasing workplace diversity to include more Indigenous women and men provides unionized employers with access to a larger talent pool and workers with the ability to exchange and build on a diverse range of experiences, perspectives and ideas. Especially since increased union density represents a higher standard of living for construction journey persons and apprentices alike. Indigenous workforce inclusion in the unionized Red Seal Trades also compliments the development of provincial natural resources and energy infrastructure development while increasing union membership.
FIT is recruiting for skilled trades within construction, such as Electrician, Carpenter, Plumber, Welder, Heavy Equipment Operator, Boilermaker , Bricklayer, Construction Craft Worker, Insulator, Iron Worker, Welder and Industrial Mechanic/Millwright within the NBBTU.
What is a Red Seal Trade? The Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program was established to provide greater mobility for skilled workers across Canada. The Red Seal program allows qualified trades people to practice their trade anywhere in Canada where the trade is designated without having to write further examinations or attain additional certification.