I'd like to thank Bob Blakely and the Canada's Building Trades Unions for the opportunity to be able to speak to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
The Trade Winds to Success Training Society's indigenous pre-apprenticeship preparation program is unique in North America. Our 14- to 16-week experiential trades program is primarily funded by the federal skills and partnership fund of Service Canada, which is a sister program to the ASETS fund, also administered by the department.
Trade Winds has three urban indigenous ASETS partners, and has also worked with many of the 10 remaining rural aboriginal skills and employment training strategy holders in Alberta, which send their members to Edmonton or Calgary for opportunities to enter the trades. Since 2006, 1,257 clients have completed their pre-apprenticeship academic preparation. Trades Winds' specific mandate is to increase the number of indigenous persons employed in the skilled workforce in the province of Alberta. We have effectively delivered this mandate from two urban training sites, Edmonton and Calgary, while candidates come from across Alberta. We also deliver community workforce development projects to any interested first nations or Métis settlement in rural Alberta. Many of our graduates have made their way through their three- or four-year apprenticeship to full journeyman or journeywoman status. Our graduates have helped in building Alberta to be, until this past year, the economic driver of Canada. The current economic downturn has only resulted in greater numbers on our wait-list to enter the training program.
During groups 1 to 11, from 2006 to 2014, 93% became employed after our training, with 88% employed in trades-related work. Since the downturn in groups 12 to 15, from 2015 to 2018, 86% became employed, while 78% are working in the trade.
The Trade Winds to Success program was the result of a discussion the Alberta construction unions had with the federal government and the Alberta government back in the late nineties. The vision of the leaders of the founding unions was to address the looming skills workforce shortage predicted by 2020 as baby boomers retired. The unions sought the federal government's support to find a way to provide training to more people through their existing training facilities, with the goal of increasing the numbers of skilled labourers available to the unions and unionized employers. The federal government informed the unions to consult with the indigenous community as a potential partner for their initiative. The indigenous communities had agreements, at that time known as the aboriginal human resources development agreement, or AHRDA, with the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development, now called aboriginal skills and employment training strategy, or ASETS.
This was the beginning of a unique partnership between four unions and the indigenous communities in Alberta to increase the number of indigenous people working in the trades within the unions. There are currently nine union partners. The organization was founded in 2005 as a society in Alberta through a three-way partnership with the Alberta construction trades unions training trust funds and unionized employers, three urban aboriginal skills and employment training strategy agreement holders, which are Oteenow Employment & Training Society, Community Futures Treaty Seven, and Rupertsland Institute, and both federal and provincial funding supports.
What have we learned in the last 12 years?
Experiential learning is essential to our indigenous youth. Most indigenous learners are kinesthetic learners and need hands-on as well as academic preparation. The conventional elementary school learning model is not effective for adult learners.
Our adult learners succeed with peer support, visual learning, movement, and, most of all, relationally with our staff. We help our learners bridge to the reality of the workplace through trades orientation so they can choose the best fit for a trade through our job-coaching and life-skills coaching.
Our recent labour force survey of a sample of indigenous communities that have participated in a labour force survey project in their community was taken across Alberta, including in Métis settlements and first nations in Treaties Nos. 6, 7, and 8. In the sample, 2,072 indigenous people of working age were interviewed regarding barriers to employment and educational interests. The sample showed that 17% of those surveyed were interested in employment in the trades. Of all the males who were surveyed, 28% of them were interested in employment in the trades, and 8% of the females who were surveyed also wanted employment in the trades. The age range was from 16 to 30 and the total number of indigenous youth who were interested in the trades was 18%.
In Trade Winds today, first nations, Métis, and Inuit individuals are still recruited to participate in the 16-week program in Edmonton and Calgary. Currently, 86% pass the Alberta apprenticeship entrance exam. On a one-to-one basis, Trade Winds staff assist participants to make informed choices and help them navigate their journey by addressing individual barriers to success.
I quickly want to give you three key messages. First, experiential learning is key to the successful transition of indigenous youth into the trades through the unionized hands-on shop training centres. Next is closing the gap: Trade Winds brings academic preparation to strengthen candidates' readiness through the apprenticeship process. Last is Truth and Reconciliation's section 92, part (ii): the visionary leadership of Canada's trade unions conceived of Trade Winds long before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission grew in our Canadian consciousness.