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Trades Training in 2015: Thoughtful and Considered Responses to Tough Economic Times

Momentum’s Trades Training department began 25 years ago, during the recession of 1991. Its purpose was, and still is, to offer the training and support that result in meaningful, well-paid careers in the trades.
It’s always nice to do this kind of work when the economy is at its peak. It’s more essential—and yet even more difficult—to do it during an economic downturn. And 2015 definitely qualifies as an economic downturn in Calgary.
The past year has been very challenging for the Trades Training department. We felt the impact at all levels.

  • We had a record number of applications for the training programs: 500 were expected, 955 were received. As you can read in Iris Assouline’s story, almost every one of those 955 applicants was seen in person, and all were treated with respect and compassion.
  • The huge shift in the labour market meant that we had challenges finding work experience employers for current participants.
  • Recent graduates were having difficulties finding jobs in their field.
  • Past graduates were coming to Momentum for support after losing their jobs as construction companies laid off staff.

Challenges are what make life interesting, and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful. – Joshua J. Marine

The past year has also been very inspiring as our community came together. Both staff and participants created opportunities in the declining economy. Momentum’s Board, program volunteers, and even competing organizations rallied to help. We leveraged every possible connection, and responded.

  • We always contact employers to help participants find work when they are approaching the end of the program. Where we usually reach out to 40 employers, in 2015 we had to knock on 100 new doors. This huge task required hiring additional support.
  • We added a fifth trade to our training program. The Electrician stream responds both to the high demand for electricians, and to the demand from highly skilled and educated people who hadn’t yet found work in Calgary. It requires a higher level of proficiency in math and science than our regular offerings. The participants complete their first year of apprenticeship training at SAIT, so that by the time they go to work, they will already have completed two exams, and can work longer before returning to school. The program was developed this way because employers informed us that the participants would be more employable if they had completed their first-year apprenticeship. Early results from the program in 2016 are very promising.
  • We worked with our many community partners to ensure that we were making quality referrals for those applicants we could not accept.
  • We modified the curriculum to increase the focus on finding work in hard times. The market for trades is cyclical, so we helped participants understand this. We wanted to set them up for success by helping them know how to get back into the labour force as the economy improves.
  • We offered additional training qualifications so that participants could have as much relevant training as possible on their resumes. For examples, Momentum funded the Canadian Welding Bureau certification process for welding program participants.
  • We included additional Financial Literacy training into the Trades Training curriculum to ensure that participants have a solid understanding of how to manage their money.
  • We provided participants additional supports and services for employment readiness. This included initiating a bi-weekly Job Club for past and current participants to improve their search, resume-writing and interview skills. And graduates attended our Come-Back Fridays to help them build interview skills.

Our roots ground us in the knowledge that together we can make it through tough times. At Momentum we stand behind our programs, and we are proud of our Trades Training team, which faced overwhelming demands with thoughtful and considered responses.