This summer, Ironworkers Local 97, Milieu Children & Family Services and the Construction Foundation’s Skills Ready initiative worked together to put on a Trades Exploration Camp with youth in the Vancouver area. The hands-on camp featured welding, assembling and bolting together of steel structures, ‘toolbox talk’, measurement and drilling exercises, woodworking and painting, along with discussions on workplace safety and a career Q & A session.
Established in 1906, Ironworkers Local 97 has partnered with a number of organizations over the years to help promote and encourage a career in trades as a viable option for youth. The union is currently in a ‘ramp-up phase’, with an expected increase of 320-350 apprentices projected through next year, up from the approximately 265 currently registered apprentices.
Ironworkers 97 played a pivotal role in this summer’s weeklong camp, donating their time, supplies, space and welding facility, as well as providing three instructors to work with participants through each activity and exercise in a safe and correct fashion throughout the week.
“Our role as instructors was to connect the students with the industrial equipment: industrial tools, grinders, welders, and making sure that safety was paramount at all times,” said Derek Dinzey, Trade Improvement Coordinator for Ironworkers 97. “We had three instructors on hand for roughly eight to nine participants each day; it was a fairly high student-to-teacher ratio.”
Dinzey, along with co-workers Chris Hutchins and Kody Milanese, were impressed by the enthusiasm on display at this summer’s camp.
“Energy and interest was extremely high for this camp in particular,” Dinzey remarked. “The participants were a pleasure to work with and had a great energy level. We had a chance to expose them to something they’d never seen before and provide them with hands-on experience with the industrial type equipment that we use in our profession.”
When time allows, Ironworkers 97 endeavours to participate in community events as much as possible, exposing trades to underrepresented youth through partnerships with organizations such as the Construction Foundation. The union’s willingness to provide support for initiatives such as the Skills Ready Trades Exploration Camp this past summer has also seen them providing similar events for groups such as the Burnaby School for the Deaf, at-risk youth, First Nation communities, Women in Trades and more.
“We’re not in the position to necessarily donate a lot of money,” added Dinzey. “What we can do is donate our facilities and a bit of time.”
Dinzey hopes the continuation of helping to facilitate camps in the future will aid in the dissipation of stigmas associated with the trades and help to encourage a career pathway in trades as an appropriate route for many people. He has observed that trades, in many cases, are viewed as the ‘Plan B’ when traditional avenues such as a four-year university program are not in the cards for an individual.
“My hope is that the trades aren’t as much of a mystery after they go through a camp like this and that they can see the professionalism that is present within the trades industry. You can be a professional in your craft: truck driver, ironworker or whatever you choose. Becoming a professional is just as much an attitude as it is a credential, and we hope that these camps leave participants with the inspiration to be a professional at whatever they choose to do.”
About the Construction Foundation of BC
The Construction Foundation builds community through engagement in charitable initiatives and a commitment to industry focused education and research initiatives that benefit all British Columbians. For more information, please visit www.constructionfoundation.ca
About Ironworkers 97
Ironworkers Local 97 is a part of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Ironworkers. Its area of coverage includes all of British Columbia, and the Yukon. Since 1906, Ironworkers Local 97 has fought to better the lives of Ironworkers through collective bargaining. Ironworkers Local 97’s mandate is to raise wages and working conditions for Ironworkers, and to ensure that Ironworkers receive the training they need to be safe, productive, and professional at work.