IBEW Initiative aims to Boost Canadian Diversity Efforts

EIn IBEW Aprenticeship 400

Sept 3, 2020

IBEW International President Lonnie R. Stephenson recently announced the “IBEW Strong” initiative to grow a more inclusive and representative union, and IBEW leaders in Canada are embracing the push to increase diversity while continuing to educate the best electrical workers in the world. It’s something that’s been an IBEW priority for many years.

“We have an opportunity as an industry to solve multiple problems by putting people to work,” said Cheryl Paron, an international representative in charge of the First District’s outreach to traditionally underrepresented communities.

“We pride ourselves at the IBEW on the strength of our construction apprenticeships. We have a higher standard. But at the same time, it can exclude some of those communities that do not have the resources to meet our requirements. We’re looking for ways to change that while maintaining those standards.”

“We’ve long worked to make IBEW membership more accessible, and the IBEW Strong initiative will help us do that even more,” First District International Vice President Thomas Reid said. “Not only is opening our doors the right thing to do, as our nation grows in diversity, we have to reflect that change. IBEW membership offers a path to a better life for members and their families and that’s especially vital in areas where the population has been historically marginalized.”

Such is the case with Canada’s Indigenous community, which has lagged badly behind most of Canada in wages and benefits and where educational opportunities are often limited. Paron said many Indigenous communities want to become more involved with trade unions because they believe they offer their citizens a chance at a better life.

“Maybe they attended schools where they were not able to learn math and science to meet our [apprenticeship] standards,” she said. “So, we look for ways to bring them up to our standards.”

For the IBEW, one of the most successful diversity efforts has been at Toronto Local 353, which has been an active member of the Central Ontario Building Trades’ Hammer Heads program since its formation in 2009. The program is designed to aid men and women between the ages of 18 and 26 in the Indigenous and other under-resourced communities in developing the skills needed to work in the trades.

Successful applicants are placed with a mentor and enrolled in a 12-week boot camp to improve their math, science and English skills. They also visit various jobsites to get a better understanding of which trades appeal to them.

After that, those interested in an electrical career take the Local 353 apprenticeship exam. Ten have gone on to be journeyman wiremen and several more are now apprentices, Local 353 vice president Jeff Irons said.

“These really are great young people,” he said. “In addition to now having a career as an electrician and being part of Local 353, we’ve found they’re upfront, proud union members who will promote the trade union movement.”

Vital work also is being done at Vancouver Local 213, which has had an active Electrical Workers Minority Committee for several years. Work by Local 213 members led to the formation of the BC Centre for Women in the Trades, which studies and advocates for ways to retain women working in construction.

Paron said she hopes those examples show local unions across Canada the importance of such work.

“Some of them look at this and think it’s difficult to do,” she said. “They don’t know where to start. We understand that, so we’re trying to lay things out and show them people who have done this work and they can talk to.”

Paron said the increased diversity efforts also can pay off at non-construction locals, noting her time as a member of Ottawa Local 2228, which represents about 1,900 federal workers across the country. She was employed by Nav Canada for eight years and the company paid her expenses to attend the IBEW’s Women’s Conference in 2018.

“They saw the value of promoting leadership among women,” she said. “One of the things we need to continue to do in [professional and industrial] is to promote partnerships like this.”

Source

Related Articles


Latest Articles

  • Investment in Single-Family Homes Continues to Rise for April

    Investment in Single-Family Homes Continues to Rise for April

    June 14, 2024 Month over month, investment in building construction increased 4.5% to $20.4 billion in March. The residential sector was up 5.4% to $14.3 billion, while investment in the non-residential sector increased 2.3% to $6.1 billion. On a constant dollar basis (2017=100), investment in building construction increased 4.1% to $12.5 billion in March. Investment in single-family homes continues to rise Investment in… Read More…

  • Record High Levels in British Columbia’s Multi-Unit Residential Construction Intentions for April

    Record High Levels in British Columbia’s Multi-Unit Residential Construction Intentions for April

    June 14, 2024 Month over month, the total value of building permits in Canada significantly increased 20.5% to $12.8 billion in April. Construction intentions in the residential sector increased 21.0% to $8.0 billion and the non-residential sector rose 19.6% to $4.8 billion, with growth observed in all components. British Columbia posted a record high monthly total value of building permits ($3.1 billion),… Read More…

  • ECAO’s Ontario’s Energy Future Sector Analysis Report

    ECAO’s Ontario’s Energy Future Sector Analysis Report

    June 14, 2024 Driven by economy-wide decarbonization efforts in response to the global climate crisis, Ontario’s electricity sector is rapidly evolving to enable the shift from fossil-based energy sources to clean energy sources. At the same time, with electrification of industry, transportation and more, it is abundantly clear that the demand for electricity supply is… Read More…

  • Planned Shift from Gas to Electric Heat Required to Avoid High Costs and Emissions: Report

    Planned Shift from Gas to Electric Heat Required to Avoid High Costs and Emissions: Report

    June 14, 2024 New research published today by the Canadian Climate Institute finds that a system-wide shift from gas to electric heat is the lowest-cost path through the clean energy transition. The report, Heat Exchange: How today’s policy choices will drive or delay Canada’s transition to clean, reliable heat, concludes that provincial government action will be  necessary to protect reliability and… Read More…


Changing Scene

  • Danielle Mayer – 2024 ECAM Award Recipient

    Danielle Mayer – 2024 ECAM Award Recipient

    June 14, 2024 Danielle Mayer’s journey to receiving the 2024 ECAM Award is one of dedication and determination. Danielle’s interest in the electrical trade sparked when she realized its potential as a hands-on career path, prompted by the suggestion from her friends that they needed an electrician among them. Beginning her exploration of the electrical… Read More…

  • CAF-FCA Unveils Trades Talent – An Innovative Speaker Connection Service at 2024 National Apprenticeship Conference

    CAF-FCA Unveils Trades Talent – An Innovative Speaker Connection Service at 2024 National Apprenticeship Conference

    June 14, 2024 The 2024 National Apprenticeship Conference saw an exciting announcement from the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF-FCA) with the launch of Trades Talent, an innovative online service designed to connect event planners with expert speakers in the skilled trades sector. This ground-breaking platform promises to be a game-changer for those seeking knowledgeable and engaging… Read More…

  • Atkore Announces Environmental Product Declarations for Steel and PVC Conduit Products

    Atkore Announces Environmental Product Declarations for Steel and PVC Conduit Products

    Atkore Inc. announced it has published Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for its Galvanized Steel, Stainless Steel, and PVC Conduit & Fittings portfolios. Verified by an independent third party, each EPD contains a product’s life cycle assessment that measures its environmental impact, such as greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, water consumption, waste generation, and other factors…. Read More…

  • ECAO 2024 Douglas J.B. Wright Award

    ECAO 2024 Douglas J.B. Wright Award

    June 14, 2024 Congratulations to Mr. Allan Kellett, Co-Owner of K-Line Group of Companies, on being named the recipient of the ECAO’s 2024 Douglas J.B. Wright Award! The award was presented earlier this month as part of ECAO’s Annual General Meeting. View the LinkedIn post HERE Read More…