Models of Success – In Urban Centres – Trade Winds to Success, AlbertaModels of Success – In Urban Centres – Trade Winds to Success, Alberta


Trade Winds to Success is a project established in 2005 to respond to the growing needs for trained Aboriginal people in skilled construction trades – such as Electricians, Millwrights, Boilermakers, Ironworkers, Carpenters, Welders, Steam/Pipefitters and Plumbers – in the Edmonton and Calgary areas.

Who is Involved

The project is a partnership with key stakeholders from labour groups, Aboriginal groups and government funding agencies.  The Leadership Circle for Trade Winds to Success is representative of an equal number of the partners:

  • the Aboriginal community, including:
    • Oteenow Employment and Training Society;
    • Métis Nation of Alberta;
    • Community Futures Treaty Seven.
  • the Joint Training Trust Fund, representing:
    • The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 146;
    • Alberta and Northwest Territories (District of MacKenzie) Regional Council of Carpenters and Allied Workers Local 1325;
    • Alberta Iron Workers Apprenticeship and Training Plan Local Unions 720/725;
    • United Association of Journeymen of the Plumbing and Pipefitters Industry of the United States and Canada Locals 488/496;
    • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 424;
    • Alberta Millwrights Local 1460.
  • the funding agencies:
    • Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC);
    • Alberta Employment & Immigration.

The labour leaders first approached the federal government and the Alberta government looking for support and guidance for increasing the pool of skilled labour to respond to the labour shortage in Edmonton and Calgary. The federal government referred them to the Aboriginal leadership in these urban locations and the ASET/AHRDA holders that had resources to invest in skills training. As a result of these discussions, an excellent partnership was established with First Nations and Métis groups, labour groups and government partners to build the Trade Winds to Success project, which is part of the national Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership (ASEP) programs.

What the focus is

Trade Winds to Success offers a pre-apprenticeship training program designed to support the training, mentoring, apprenticeship and hiring of Aboriginal candidates for jobs in the trades. It consists of 18 weeks that focus on career decision making, employment preparation and job maintenance to start a career in the following trades: Boilermaker, Carpenter, Electrician, Ironworker, Millwright, Plumber, Steam/Pipefitter or Welder. It includes the trades streaming process, enabling participants to make informed career decisions and obtain academic upgrading, shop theory and hand skill training, and safety skills. The program is open to Métis, Inuit and First Nations people in Alberta.

Trade Winds to Success models an extensive pre-assessment process. Potential clients are asked to attend information sessions that are held bi-weekly, at either the Trade Winds offices or Employment Centres in Edmonton and Calgary. Once the participant has completed this entry and is still interested in pursuing his or her career option, he or she is referred back to the local Employment Centre for referral to the pre-apprenticeship program.

The assessment testing includes the Test of Workplace Essential Skills (TOWES): a nationally accepted test that measures Essential Skills in the workplace, including math proficiency (Grade 11 minimum required).

Trade Winds to Success indicates that the pre-screening and assessment process is the key to recruiting successful candidates.

Once accepted, the participant is required to attend the Trade Streaming Process. This is an intensive three-week session that helps candidates make informed career choices and carry out employment preparation and job maintenance. Those candidates not selected to continue on to the pre-apprenticeship sessions are referred back to the Employment Centres for further support.

Successful participants are entered into the pre-apprenticeship sessions, which are broken into two sections. The first ranges in length from four to five weeks, and includes academic upgrading and preparation to write the Alberta apprenticeship Entrance Exam Levels 4 or 5; the next eight to 12 weeks are held at the Industry Joint Training Centres, where participants focus on theory, hand tool, shop and safety tickets.

The final phase supports graduating participants with mentorship and employment.  Ongoing support and mentoring is available for up to one year.

Participants who are eligible receive a stipend for the first three weeks, and a living allowance once into pre-apprenticeship training, to help with expenses while in the program.

Why This Model Works

Trade Winds to Success is a successful model for pre-apprenticeship training and hiring of Aboriginal people in the trades for a number of reasons. It has developed respectful and equal partnership relationships between all of the critical stakeholders. The training program has an extensive pre-assessment process that requires candidates to be screened more than once before entering into the training program to ensure that they have made the appropriate career choice. The partnership with ASET/AHRDA holders supports the pre-screening and eligibility process. The program deals holistically with client challenges such as lifestyle changes, academic upgrading requirements, learning about the industry and understanding the cultural, as well as job, aspects.

Trade Winds to Success indicates that having a strong mentoring approach is critical to success. Enabling employees to access a Job Retention Officer is also very important. Finally, understanding the workplace culture is essential.

Evaluation consists of ongoing monitoring as participants move through the various stages of training. On-the-job support and mentoring connections are provided. The evaluation outcomes and successes for 2010 are listed.

Calgary and Edmonton Graduates

Ironworkers 20
Carpenters 30
Boilermakers 13
Steam/Pipefitters 21
Plumbers 13
Sprinkler-fitters 4
Electricians 9
Millwrights 5

Challenges to Work on

Trade Winds to Success continues to work with employers and participants on workplace issues, as well as help clients who do not have transportation or a driver’s licence. Most jobs are outside of the urban area. Eligible clients must be clean and sober for six months prior to entering the program.