I would suggest that supporting more pre-apprenticeship training programs would be highly essential, as would ensuring that everyone has access to the pre-apprenticeship training programs regardless of eligibility criteria. If you want to get skilled workers into the program, forget the concept that you must be on Ontario Works in order to participate in a pre-apprenticeship program. For the most part, it's the only way for many women and under-represented groups in the construction industry to get their first foot in the door, to get the exposure and the supports they need.
To get into the apprenticeship with the union, there are certain things that are required. You need to have your high school transcript. For people who are newcomers and who had their high school education back home, how do you make sure it's easy for them to be able to access that documentation and translate it if they need to? Within a pre-apprenticeship program or the Employment Ontario system, those kinds of documentation issues are dealt with. They can receive the supports they need in order to be able to process whatever documentation and to be able to prepare for the test. You have to pass your English test again, and your math test, and your mechanical aptitude test. Where else are you going to get the industry language you need in order to be able to pass those? The pre-apprenticeship system is really essential. Let's eliminate all the eligibility criteria and make sure we support people financially.
To get into the union, remember, there's an eight-week training period where you're not being paid. You're learning. You have to figure out, as a person who's already poverty-stricken and who doesn't have the required resources, how you're going to live. Sometimes, if the union training centre is in Oakville and you live in Toronto, well, you now have to find a place to stay. That's not paid for. You have to figure out how you're going to feed yourself. As a newcomer and an immigrant, you're often also responsible for your family. For women, you're responsible for your family and your children. How do you make sure they're taken care of while you go through this apprenticeship training program?
So invest in pre-apprenticeships. The pre-apprenticeship system will allow the individual to receive supports, whether it be through Ontario Works or employment insurance or other types of stipends that might be provided by the federal government to support them during that eight weeks. For most pre-apprenticeship programs, they will be able to get recognition of that eight weeks with the union so that they don't have to take that additional eight weeks once they get into the union, because it's usually a partnership with the union.