Procore set out to find the companies, projects and individuals that stood out for their bold achievements in construction. Among the 27 outstanding finalists selected, nine were named winners of the 2022 Groundbreaker Awards. This article is the fifth in a nine-part series spotlighting each winner.
Construction is inextricably linked to community—the building of schools, homes, hospitals, offices, train stations and more has an undeniable impact on so many people. Not only does the industry provide places to eat, learn and relax, but it also offers employment and career growth opportunities. In Canada, one organization is making a difference with construction.
Construct, a Social Enterprise by Blue Door, is a non-profit that provides hands-on work experience and training for vulnerable youth and adults facing barriers to employment. Based in the greater Toronto area in Ontario, Canada, the eight-week program provides a paid, pre-apprenticeship and multifaceted support. Participants learn trade skills, get hands-on experience, and are provided with mental health services, transportation, referrals and more.
Equipping the community for success
Since the program launched in 2020 in the York region of Ontario, it has expanded into the Durham and Peel regions. Initially, the training had four cohorts a year—today, it’s grown to 17 cohorts annually. These groups are made up of eight to ten participants. Rudi Genovese, Director, Social Enterprise and Emily Rowe, a Sr. Manager, Social Enterprise are part of the Construct team that is supporting participants every day as they navigate the program.
“Through these eight weeks, we’re able to streamline people into meaningful careers that are going to pay them a wage that can help attain housing while providing them with wraparound support,” says Rowe. “We’re making sure they can be successful in whatever job placement they end up going into.”
Many programs that support people experiencing housing crises pipelines them into minimum wage jobs rather than living wage jobs—Construct seeks to change that course. Participants are given a chance to hone real, transferable skills in their pre-apprenticeship so they have a shoe-in to join the industry when they’ve completed the training. Rowe and her team make sure they have all necessary resources, from transportation to mental health support to food, and help remove any barriers to entering the program. Additionally, Genovese and his team support the construction end of the business, setting up participants for success.
“We really try to make an impact on the people that are coming through the program, making sure they have the tools to succeed and setting them up foundationally,” shares Genovese. “This helps them continue to prosper and grow beyond the scope of the program to achieve sustainable success.”
Training the next generation workforce
As the labor shortage continues to impact the industry, Construct is making a real difference to fill these skilled worker gaps. Construct has partnered with local unions, like LiUNA Local 506 and higher education like Humber College’s Centre for Trades and Technology to provide training in areas like health and safety, different trades and power tools fundamentals.
Community YMCAs have also partnered to provide resume workshops, interview preparation and ongoing case management. In addition, Construct provides hands-on development in skillsets like landscaping, demolition and home renovation so that participants have work history experience when they graduate. In fact, approximately 85% of Construct alumni report stable employment.
“We do regular check-ins to focus on mental health, goal and career planning to make sure participants are progressing along and not hitting any significant barriers,” Rowe reports. “We make sure they are tracking to attain employment by the end of the program.”
Some participants have never worked in construction, while others may have had past experience but have faced barriers to re-entering the workforce, such as substance abuse, incarceration, or housing insecurity. Construct is made up of industry experts who are keen to educate and inform the next generation of construction. These individuals provide training in a variety of trades, offer insight about the industry, explain differences between unions, non-unions, and participate in guest speaking. This volunteer work is incredibly important, as these experts are training the individuals who may one day fill their own shoes.
“Participants get the opportunity to learn under those trades’ staff members on jobsites, giving them a chance to get a hands-on, non-artificial feel of what a trade looks like. They get to learn the entire spectrum of what a renovation or other project is like,” says Genovese.
A step ahead with technology
A critical advantage of the program is hands-on experience with construction technology. During the program, participants are trained in Procore certifications, with a comprehensive overview of Project Management, Safety, Quality and Financial Management tools. Thus far, 95 participants have been certified.
“One of the really beneficial things about having the partnership with Procore is the ability to provide certifications to folks in the program. Participants complete Student and Field Worker certifications, and this can spur interest in other functionalities, like estimating, planning or project coordination,” says Rowe.
With this knowledge of the Procore platform, participants are able to enter the workforce equipped with a construction technology background, providing them with an edge in their career prospects. Since 2021, 16 cohorts have been Procore certified.
“We prioritized early on the need for digitalization and doing everything in cloud-based platforms to make sure we’re not losing time and efficiency,” Genovese explains. “The industry as a whole is moving towards this digitalization and installing these platforms in our training programs helps provide skills that sets them apart.”
Technology helps Construct alumni stand out to prospective employers, but ultimately, the dedicated team at Construct provides support every step of the way to focus on success. Participants who have completed the program are giving back to the community by lessening the labor shortage and providing economic stimulation. It’s no wonder that Construct is being recognized for the very real impact it’s making on local communities.
To learn more about Construct’s programs, click here.
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