A new skilled-trades training facility recently opened by Manitoba Building Trades aims to increase worker retention and reduce stigma around the sector.
Construction of the Manitoba Building Trades Institute (225 McPhillips St.) was completed last fall and programming began in January. A grand opening was held Aug. 18.
Manitoba Building Trades represents over 10,000 workers from more than two dozen professions. However, numbers are falling, according to Tanya Palson, manager of communications and business development for MBT.
The completion rate for apprenticeship is approximately 50 per cent, she said, so the institute comes at a critical time.
"A few years ago, we took it on ourselves to really address our workforce development strategies. Our industry is facing a huge worker shortage upcoming, that’s due to mass retirements, as well as just low recruitment and retention in the skilled trades. So we needed to, even for our own sustainability and our own union membership, figure out a way to really support the industry from a workforce perspective," Palson told The Times.
The $15-million building, which was primarily funded by MBT, with help from the federal government, is the largest private investment in a skilled-trades training facility in Western Canada.
The 70,000 square-foot institute offers training for work readiness, diversity and inclusion, leading technology, sustainability, and future skills. The facility has five technology classrooms, a computer lab, 30,000 square-feet of practical training areas, outdoor gardens as well as an apiary (bee farm), auditorium, exhibition hall, and aquaponic greenhouse. An atrium will be home to the 1919 General Strike exhibit curated by the Manitoba Museum.
The institute emphasizes "social responsibility" through a few of its features, such as the aquaponic greenhouse, outdoor gardens and apiary, which highlight urban agricultural practices.
"Aquaponics… is the system where fish and produce grow in a self-sustaining system; fish waste feeds the food, the produce cleans the water and puts it back into the fish tanks. So it’s basically like zero-waste agriculture. It has very little to do with the skilled trades, but it’s a big corporate social responsibility initiative for us," Palson said.
MBTI is seeking partners to care for and learn from its urban agriculture facilities.
"Seven Oaks School Division came on as a partner. They’re going to be sending students three days a week; there’ll be a dedicated classroom of students per semester, who come in and manage the aquaponics facility, do the food harvesting, work on business development and food supply management skills," Palson said.
"We’re hoping to get some more groups in to expose them to that sort of stuff."
For more information, visit mbtrades.ca
The Times community journalist
Sydney Hildebrandt was the community journalist for The Times until September 2021, when she joined our sister paper, the Brandon Sun.