Ontario looks to train workers with criminal histories
By Adam FreillConstruction Labour
Province aims to help people on social assistance, including those with criminal records, find purpose-driven careers in construction.
A criminal record won’t prevent potential workers from training in programs funded by the Ontario government’s Skills Development Fund (SDF). The province is investing an additional $160 million to tackle the labour shortage, and is aiming to help at least 100,000 workers get free training to meet the needs of employers hiring in their communities.
The funding will prioritize programs that propose innovative training solutions to help people on social assistance and with prior criminal records find meaningful employment in critical industries like construction, healthcare, auto-manufacturing, information technology and hospitality.
“For too long, too many in our community have been forgotten and treated as second class in their own province. In the middle of a historic labour shortage, we need all hands on deck,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. “That is why our government is leaving no stone unturned to ensure we give anyone who wants a job and a paycheque they can be proud of a shot at the Ontario dream. Whether you’ve been on social assistance for 10 months or 10 years, we’ll help you.”
The province says that there are some 300,000 jobs going unfilled each day in Ontario. Labour shortages are threatening to hold back the government’s ambitious infrastructure plans, including building at least 1.5 million homes by 2031. At the same time, more than 800,000 people in Ontario rely on social assistance when the majority are willing, able and eager to work, says the province. Within those figures, reported the ministry, are hundreds of thousands of people who made a mistake in the past and carry a criminal record and have not reoffended. Almost half of people with records are on social assistance even 15 years after release from prison.
“Our government believes in second chances, and we know that comebacks are possible. Providing free labour training to those with criminal records who want to contribute to Ontario’s economy will result in a safer Ontario,” stated solicitor general Michael Kerzner. “The Skills Development Fund not only builds careers that move our economy forward, but it also provides second chances to Ontarians, so they aren’t left behind.”
McNaughton made the announcement while in from Dresden, Ont., where the government announced a $465,000 investment through a previous round of the Skills Development Fund Training Stream to prepare 24 young people for careers in construction and the skilled trades in Chatham-Kent. SkillShift will provide a free six-week introductory course that teaches participants essential skills for construction, such as blueprint reading, scissor lift certifications, as well as financial literacy and soft skills, with mentors, networking opportunities and $1,125 for equipment and transportation. Participants will also receive a paid two-week job placement with a local employer.
“Through this transformative $465,000 investment, the government of Ontario is shaping brighter futures for 24 youth in Chatham-Kent while invigorating our local construction industry,” said Phillip Mock, executive director at Vision Us. “Vision Us is excited to be leading this investment in our community with our partners.”
Through its first three rounds, the Skills Development Fund has supported 596 projects in a variety of sectors, helping half a million people take the next step in their careers, including people with disabilities, auto workers, firefighters and construction workers.
“This $465,000 investment in our youth through the Skills Development Fund is a transformative step,” stated Trevor Jones, MPP for Chatham-Kent-Leamington. “Empowering youth for rewarding careers in construction and skilled trades not only secures their future but also fuels the growth of Chatham-Kent-Leamington as a thriving community.”
Ontario’s Skills Development Fund Training Stream supports programs that connect jobseekers with the skills and training they need to find well-paying careers close to home. Organizations eligible for funding include employers, employment service and training providers, labour unions, community, business and industry organizations, municipalities, hospitals, Indigenous Band offices, Indigenous skills and employment training agreement holders and service system managers.