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  • Stephen Lecce, MPP

Ontario Helping Underprivileged Youth Start Careers in Construction

July 26, 2021

TORONTO - The Ontario government is investing over $600,000 to help 390 young people from underrepresented backgrounds train for and secure apprenticeships in the construction sector. The funding will open doors to careers in the plumbing, steam fitting, electrical, elevator mechanic and refrigeration trades through programs delivered by Hammer Heads, a non-profit organization that supports underprivileged youth from the Greater Toronto Area. “Not every young person needs to go to university. Rewarding jobs in the construction sector are growing, well-paid and going unfilled,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “Hammer Heads helps guide talented, trained and eager young people along their journey to these life-changing careers with education and hands-on learning. These projects will help boost our economy and give these young workers a leg up.” The investment consists of funding for three projects that support youth who are trained through the Hammer Heads pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs:

  • $350,569 for a free pre-apprenticeship program led by Hammer Heads to enable 18 youths, in two cohorts of nine, to participate in Hammer Heads’ 10-week program preparing them for careers in the construction sector. The program covers health and safety training, helps participants with academic upgrading and provides soft skills job preparation, construction skills training and placement with a union for an apprenticeship. The program for the first cohort began on June 21, and for the second cohort begins on January 17, 2022.

  • $218,200 for the Pinball Clemons Foundation to mentor 300 graduates of the Hammer Heads pre-apprenticeship program in years two through six of their apprenticeships, ensuring they have the support they need to successfully complete apprenticeship training. The Hammer Heads program currently guides program graduates through the first year of apprenticeship employment.

  • $34,314 for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 353 to create and deliver the Hammer Heads Virtual Reality Safety Training project, which will help 72 Hammer Heads participants travel virtually onto real construction sites to learn about safety hazards and best practices.

These new programs are part of Ontario’s $115-million Skills Development Fund, designed to support fresh ideas for training and skills development that will help our economy recover and prosper.

Quick Facts

  • Hammer Heads' June cohort has already been filled. People interested in the January cohort can apply, for free, through referrals by youth employment agencies, employment service providers, case workers, job coaches, youth shelters, Children’s Aid and other youth support providers. Applications are also accepted online at

  • According to BuildForce Canada, the construction industry will need more than 100,000 additional workers, including skilled tradespeople, to replace retiring workers and meet expected employment growth over the next decade (2021-2030).

  • The unemployment rate for youth (aged 15-24) was 17.2% in June 2021, which was more than twice as high as the province’s unemployment rate (8.4%).

  • Ontario’s Skills Development Fund is supported through labour market transfer agreements between the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.

Quotes "The Hammer Heads Program is excited to work collaboratively with Minister McNaughton and the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development through the Skills Development Fund to provide under-resourced and under-represented youth with training and apprenticeship career opportunities within the construction industry. This funding stream will enable our program to positively impact these youth and to contribute to our communities and the province in a meaningful, sustainable way, resulting in much-needed systemic change." - James St. John Business Manager/Financial Secretary, Central Ontario Building Trades and Director of the Hammer Heads Program "IBEW Local 353 has been committed to working with diverse communities, encouraging young people to join the trades. We thank the government for recognizing our efforts. This funding will assist our ongoing efforts to reach out and support marginalized and racialized communities along with the youth at risk, building stronger communities together." - Lee Caprio Business Manager/Financial Secretary, IBEW Local 353 "The outcomes-focused Pinball Clemons Foundation is grateful and honoured to be chosen as a recipient of the Skills Development Fund. We have witnessed first-hand the phenomenal work James St. John and his team effectively execute, compassionately ushering youth from the unknown to stability and independence. This funding is augmented by our mentorship program led by the inspiring and resilient Orlando Bowen and his organization, One Voice, One Team! Through this intentional collaboration, a Proven Program (Hammer Heads), an Intentional Pathway (Pinball Clemons Foundation) and a Compassionate Partner (One Voice, One Team) meet marginalized youth where they are and take them to where they want to be; their “Sweet Spot”, independent and contributing to a better and brighter tomorrow." - Michael “Pinball” Clemons Co-Founder, Pinball Clemons Foundation "Skilled trades are essential to our communities and to our society. I am grateful to Minister Monte McNaughton for his work in securing this funding and promoting the skilled trades in Scarborough. Hammerheads is such a deserving organization and I am encouraged that so many underserved youths will be equipped with the tools needed to improve their own lives and the lives of those around them. " - Christina Mitas MPP for Scarborough Centre "I am thrilled to see our government investing in skilled trades and supporting our young workers with hands-on training through pre-apprentice and apprenticeship programs. This investment will bring much needed youth employment opportunities for young people in Scarborough." - Vijay Thanigasalam MPP for Scarborough-Rouge Park

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