Conestoga news

November 5, 2021 10:32 AM

Research program targets the future of skilled trades

The Ontario government is investing close to $800,000 in a three-year research project at Conestoga College that will build capacity among current and future skilled trades workers while optimizing skilled trades jobs and work environments.

The project, “STRIVE OSH: Skilled Trade Research, InnoVation, and Education in Occupational Safety and Health,” is led by the Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness & Performance (CISWP) in Conestoga’s School of Business. Funding is provided through the province’s Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development. 

Skilled trades workers play an essential role in the lives of all Ontarians as well as in the provincial economy. They build and maintain infrastructure such as homes, schools, hospitals roads and parks. They keep industries running and perform many services that people across the province rely on every day.

Increased demands resulting from population growth, changing workforce demographics and significant injury rates pose a threat to the contributions of the skilled trades to the economy. Ontario’s construction sector alone will require at least 100,000 new workers over the next decade to keep up with demand.

Keeping skilled trades workers healthy and prolonging their working lives while attracting newly trained workers from diverse backgrounds will be essential to Ontario’s continued growth and prosperity.

The STRIVE OSH project will engage a broad group of stakeholders and aims to ensure that skilled trade businesses are prepared and accommodating to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce. The project will also focus on ensuring that skilled trades curricula incorporate the necessary occupational health and safety knowledge and training.

“The STRIVE OSH project involves stakeholders representing college faculty, labour unions, private sector businesses, employer groups, policy makers, and health and safety associations,” explained Dr. Amin Yazdani, director of CISWP. “Over the course of the three-year project, CISWP will develop tools, guidelines, and best practices for our partners, including a toolbox of experiential OSH learning activities, recommendations to improve OSH content in skilled trades curricula, and a comprehensive database of skilled trades job requirements and demands.”

CISWP is uniquely positioned to spearhead this initiative, as Conestoga is one of the province’s largest skilled trades training institutions. CISWP’s STRIVE OSH project also adds to the college’s growing capacity in applied research.

“We appreciate Ontario’s investment in this important research initiative,” said Dr. John Tibbits, President of Conestoga. “The STRIVE OSH project will meet the needs of our industry and community partners, help drive growth in our local and regional economies and provide opportunities for students to develop career-ready skills in experiential learning environments.” 

“The health and safety of every worker is our government’s top priority,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “The skilled trades offer tremendous opportunities, and we’re working to ensure people across Ontario have access to the skills and training they need to succeed in these in-demand and well-paying jobs. By investing in projects like this, we will help workers have long, safe and rewarding careers in the trades.” 

“As Waterloo Region’s economy starts to bounce back from COVID-19, we will need well trained skilled trades workers to fill the growing number of vacancies,” said Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris. “I am pleased that our government is continuing to support Conestoga College and projects like STRIVE OSH to provide current and future skilled workers with the knowledge and skills they need to be safe on the job site.” 

The Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness & Performance, located within Conestoga’s School of Business, works to improve the safety, wellness and performance of the Canadian labour force by generating knowledge, transferring research to practice, and strengthening workforce development - all in collaboration with stakeholders.