An innovative new program developed by Carpenters Regional Council Local 2486 in Sudbury is helping address shortages in the carpentry trade while providing inmates on the verge of release with important job skills.
The new program, called the Social Reintegration Program, was designed and executed by Local 2486 Training Coordinator Alex Cardinal in conjunction with the Local Union’s training staff. It was hosted at the correctional facility in Monteith, Ontario and offered exclusively to inmates ahead of their release.
The program taught tool skills and comprised an eight week carpentry pre-apprenticeship program. Upon their release, program participants were place in employment positions with CRC signatory contractors. According to the union spokesperson,
“At the Carpenters Regional Council 2486 Sudbury local, we were looking for a way that could help bring underrepresented people into the trades,” said Cameron Deering, CRC 2486 local union coordinator. “One way was to work with people with criminal records, and people from different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. We came up with the Social Reintegration Program.”
Working in collaboration with officials at the Monteith Correctional Facility and the Solicitor General, the union local hosted two eight-week programs which offered pre-apprenticeship training to two groups of 15 inmates for a total of 30 participants, each who had to be scheduled for release. The program included elements such as safety training, working at heights or in confined spaces, WHMIS training, and tool safety training.
“After eight weeks they were all graded and if they passed they were offered a work placement with one of our signatory contractors,” said Deering. “So far we’ve had nine inmates who have been released and they’ve all been successfully placed with contractors. They are all informed about the their job placement before they’re released.”
The pilot project has proven to be extremely popular with qualified inmates who can look forward to an actual job placement upon release. Deering said the 15 inmates in each program were eager to complete the training, which was funded through the Government of Ontario Skills Development Fund.
“We actually had a couple inmates who were scheduled for release close to the end of the program who decided to stay in prison to complete the program,” he said. “One inmate stayed an extra week just to finish the training. They see the value in it.”
As transformative as the experience is proving to be for inmates, Deering said it’s also an important program for the carpentry trade. Like many of the skilled trades, looming shortages as Baby Boomers retire continue to present a significant challenge to the construction industry.
“There’s a very big labour shortage in the country especially when it comes to skilled trades,” said Deering. “The trades need new people to get interested in choosing them as a career, and not just the typical white males. We need to keep looking outside of that lens. Trades can offer a viable career opportunity for people who don’t fit into that silo. Programs like this are a great way to help achieve that.”
Upon entry into the work placement, participants are committed to complete a four-week placement. At the end of four weeks they are given an assessment. If they meet the standards set out for the program participants are then offered membership into the CRC 2486 local and offered an apprenticeship. While there are currently no plans to offer this program to female inmates, Deering says that might be something offered in the future once additional program funding becomes available. Ultimately, the pilot program achieved its objective according to Deering.
“I think the program was very successful. We need to be able to remove the stereotypes and offer a viable career path for certain demographics that often get overlooked. Trades are a great way to give someone a fresh start, and to offer a worthwhile career with a pension and benefits to be able to earn a good living with the carpenters union.”
Learn more about the Carpenters District Council of Ontario online here.