The Work Ready Aboriginal People (WRAP) Program is a program that targets Aboriginal Youth ages 18 -30 years old. The focus of the program is to provide an opportunity for Aboriginal Youth to gain exposure to a number of trades through attending various Union Training facilities. They also gain a number of safety certifications as these are needed to start employment on many construction sites. “Many Aboriginal youth are unaware of the career opportunities that are available in the skilled trades” says Brandi Jonathan, Employer Services Manager. “This program provides the opportunity to expose youth to a number of areas including Ironwork, Millwright, Carpenter, Insulator, Sheet Metal, Heavy Equipment, Welder, Plumber, Electrician, Painter, Boiler Maker and Construction Craft Worker,” she says. What makes this program unique is not only the target group but also the partnerships that are involved in making this program happen. Jonathan recalls going to make a presentation to the Building Trades Council, “I believed we could make this program happen, but we still needed to convince the Building Trades Council of all the benefits. I walked into a room full of Business Managers and instantly questioned whether I could make this happen. After the presentation, they agreed to support the program and I was beside myself. I knew this program would have the ability to make positive changes for so many youth in my community.”

WRAP is 20 weeks in length with the first 8 weeks being mandatory upgrading in Grade 12 technical math and grade 12 physics. During the next 12 weeks participants receive a number of safety certifications including WHMIS, Working at Heights, First Aid/CPR, Confines Spaces, Respiratory Awareness, Personal Protective Equipment, Propane Handling and Storage, Lock Out /Tag Out to name a few. Safety is a huge component of the WRAP Program and each one of the Building Trades offers something different.

“The safety certifications received are issued by the Local Union who offered the safety training and some are issued through the IHSA, the main idea being they are industry recognized certifications,” says Jonathan. “Industry partners expressed the need for potential trades people to have the necessary math skills they require. At GREAT we recognized that need as a result of meeting with industry so essential upgrading was implemented,” says Jonathan.

Since implementation in 2011, WRAP has graduated 40 students, 58% of the graduates are working in the trades and most are registered apprentices.

GREAT would like to see more youth entering the trades as there are good, sustainable career opportunities with only more becoming available. Ron General attended the first program and said “It was pretty interesting because of all the hands on that we got to do.” He was signed by the Ironworker’s Local Union 736 in Hamilton in April 2012 and is currently working towards his hours of apprenticeship. When asked what the benefits of the program are, he said “I now have a job with a pension.”

Partnership and having a shared vision is the key to success, “Without the full support of the Hamilton-Brantford Building Trades Council, which represents over 15 affiliates, we would not have this program. This is a huge collaboration of partners from Business Managers, training Instructors to employers, community partners and funding providers,” says Jonathan. Each year after training is complete, a review of the results is compiled along with recommendations for improvements. The building trades provide feedback from their instructors along with individual evaluations. These are used to assist participants with areas of improvement and areas that they excel in.

WRAP has received excellent feedback from industry partners including Joe Beattie, Business Manager of the Hamilton- Brantford Building Trades Council. “Starting a new program can be a real challenge. Working with G.R.E.A.T. we were able to establish a high level of trust in a short period of time to successfully launch the WRAP Program” says Beattie. As a result, Unions and their employers are getting talented Aboriginal youth entering their workforce. According to Steve Fox, Assistant Business Manager with the IBEW Local 105, “Partnering with Grand River Employment and Training has been an excellent experience. Through the WRAP program, we have been able to access a highly trained and motivated workforce pool, which has been a terrific benefit to our organization. The staff at G.R.E.A.T. are fantastic to work with and we are proud to be a part of this initiative.”