Giving Youth Tools for Success

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 2:23 p.m. August 21, 2018

Being employed in a stable work environment is something Anthony Khan has been desperately seeking.

Four men and one women holding trowels
Outside the mobile training centre, LiUNA Local 183 Executive Director Sandro Pinto, Chief Mark Saunders, LiUNA International Vice President Joseph Mancinelli, City Councillor Lucy Troisi and LiUNA Local 183 Business Manager Jack Oliviera

He may have found it after seeing a Toronto Police Service (TPS) Instagram posting about job opportunities in his Regent Park neighbourhood.

Through a partnership between TPS and the Laborers' International Union of North America (Canada), young people in 51 Division got a first-hand glimpse of some of the skilled trade jobs offered by Canada’s largest construction union.

“As I was going home, I saw them setting up and remembered that the event was taking place today (August 21) and tomorrow,” said Khan. “It’s amazing to see LiUNA coming to my community and working in conjunction with the police to give people like me an opportunity to train and get a good job. I am looking for something I can make a career of, instead of just having a job which isn’t steady.”

Khan signed up on the spot to enter the union’s training program.

“My interest is in cement-finishing, brick-laying and high-rise forming, so hopefully things work out,” he added. “I am very optimistic.”

Chief Mark Saunders hailed the collaboration between his Service and the union.

“When we put the right tools in young people’s hands, great things can happen,” he said. “People are out there looking for opportunities, but not all of them have the means to go to the locations where they are. By bringing this into the community, a lot of youth will have the chance to get top-class training and meaningful employment. This is a fantastic opportunity and I am looking forward to seeing the positive results that emanate from it. I think it’s going to be successful once it gets a lot of traction.”

Toronto Centre-Rosedale councillor Lucy Troisi attended the opening ceremony on August 21 on Oak St. behind the Regent Park Aquatic Centre.

A man using a trowel on a step
A LiUNA member demonstrates how to finish concrete using a sand mixture so potential recruits can try
A tractor trailer parked on a street
The mobile LiUNA training centre is used for health and safety training as well as recruitment

“I grew up in Regent Park so, when I see a partnership like this, I know there’s a real opportunity for youth to become employed,” she said. “This is exactly what our youth need and that is opportunities to be trained and educated. I am absolutely thrilled by what’s happening today and this brightens my day.”

Constable Dave Smith, of 51 Division’s Community Response Unit, helped to spread the word about the partnership.

“The feedback I got was that this is a great initiative,” he said. “Whenever you can give young people the tools to succeed, that’s something uplifting.”

Those seeking employment can call or visit the LiUNA office or any of their five campuses, visit their website at 183training.com., or go to their Instagram and Facebook pages.

“In skills and apprenticeship, we offer about 21 different programs,” said LiUNA Local 183 training centre executive director Sandro Pinto. “The size of our local union allows us to have many different programs that cover many different sectors in construction, ranging from residential to roads, bridges, tunnels and utilities. All of these programs are available to our membership and new people coming in who want to break into the construction industry. Once someone applies, they will go through an orientation process with one of our managers. After that initial session, and over the next three weeks, the selection process will start. We ask for some documentation that we review and do some basic training. Sometimes, applicants are called back in for a second interview. We choose a class about six weeks before the start of a program.”

When we put the right tools in young people’s hands, great things can happen

LiUNA has training campuses in Toronto, Vaughan, Barrie, Coburg and Kingston.

“The training is done at one of these campuses and it can last between four and 12 weeks depending on the program the applicant is pursuing,” added Pinto. “If they are successful, we facilitate with our union or employment partners for a job site to get them working at which is the ultimate goal.”

During the two days LiUNA is in Regent Park, interested applicants will have access to their 54-foot mobile training unit.

“This contains everything they will need for health and safety training, from audio-visual equipment to harnesses,” Pinto said. “It has heating and air conditioning and could be at a site for up to nine hours.”

The partnership between the Service and LiUNA emerged after a meeting between Joseph Mancinelli, LiUNA’s international vice-president and regional manager for Central and Eastern Canada, and Chief Saunders.

“We were at an event about five months ago and, while talking about getting youth involved in training and construction, the Chief suggested that we should bring our mobile training unit into Regent Park,” he said. “Looking back, that was a great idea because most people wouldn’t come to training centres, but if we brought it to them, there would be greater chance of success. So, I told the Chief, ‘let’s do it’.”

LiUNA has almost 120,000 members in Ontario of which there are about 65,000 in Toronto.

Mancinelli said there’s a huge demand for employees in the construction sector.

“The demand is so great that one could stay employed as long as they want,” he noted. “I know the weather is an obstacle and they are always working outside. But the money one can make is nearly four-to-five times more than minimum wage. There are also benefits and a pension.”

Jack Oliviera, the Local 183 business manager, encouraged young people to consider a career in construction.

“Everyone is not going to be a doctor or lawyer,” he said. “There’s an alternative and one can make a very good living at it. LiUNA is also a family and once you become part of this family, we take care of you.”

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