Northern Construction Trades Training keeps northerners close to home

A program that started in January called Northern Construction Trades Training (NCTT) is helping keep northerners in the region by providing necessary training for hopeful tradespeople.

NCTT is a joint initiative between the province of Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro, and different industry and training partners like Smook Contracting, where some of the trainees are working. Kevin Chief, minister of jobs and the economy, was in Thompson on Aug. 11 to speak about the program. The program will see 29 northern indigenous residents complete an apprenticeship which will lead to their Red Seal. “Part of the apprenticeship is the in classroom piece of it. They’ll do some essential skills and upgrading, some of the academic parts. There will be partnerships with Red River College, so it’s very intense.”

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Chief said in the next year there would be 12,000 available construction jobs in Manitoba, so this program is very timely. The Northern Manitoba Sector Council, a not-for-profit corporation that represents Northern Manitoba’s mining, forestry and energy employers, leads the program.

Participants are currently receiving apprenticeship training in the trades of millwright/pipefitter, industrial electrician and industrial mechanic. Patrick Cockerill spoke during the Aug. 11 event, about getting into the program.

“I remember back when I first heard about this program, reading about it on the MMF website it seemed surreal. I couldn’t believe there was a program willing to take people from apprenticeship all the way to Red Seal, cover all their expenses, and give them the best chance at success.”

The program is a five-year commitment, the 19-year-old stated, but was worth it since the program is covering all the fees, which Chief said is about a $30,000-$50,000 tab for each worker.

Cockerill says he’s always wanted to be an electrician and having the chance to work with the electricians at Smook Contractors, he sees himself completing the program. “I feel smarter everyday, and I have a pretty good basis going in for my level one at the end of the month. By the end of this program I see no issues with me getting my Red Seal, because all that is required is my commitment to the program, and they’re taking care of everything else.”

Peter Paulic, vice-president and general manager of Smook Contractors says this program is a great opportunity for aboriginal people to start a career. Currently the company has 11 apprentices working, and 76 per cent of the employees are aboriginal.

Mark Sweeny of Manitoba Hydroalso  spoke about the program. “I had the opportunity to visit this year’s class in April, and speak to some of the students taking part in the Northern Construction Trades Training program, and the excitement in the room was just amazing.” Approximately forty-five per cent of northern Manitoba Hydro’s workers are aboriginal.

Over 200 hopeful apprentices applied for the program, and Chief says they had to go through a rigorous process of picking the starting number of 32. The selection committee included Apprenticeship Manitoba, Northern Sector Council, and Manitoba Hydro. When choosing they took into consideration the person’s suitability, family support, willingness to be mobile, commitment to the  four- to five-year program, and previous exposure to trades and the industry.

Cockerill hopes that this program will continue so another group can experience the feelings these 29 northerners have felt. “I hope it continues to run because it would feel like a shame if this class were the only ones to experience this sense of luck, excitement and confidence in the future.”

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