Government grants boost Gold Seal training

Government grants boost Gold Seal training

ONSLOW Feb 10th,2015 — School days are long behind Hal Fowler.

Fowler has been running his own construction company for more than three decades, but he welcomes an opportunity to gain Gold Seal Certification, a sort of a voucher to prove to others that he knows his stuff.

“I’ve always wanted to do some training with the guys and myself,” Fowler said Tuesday morning at the Onslow site of a new Nissan dealership, a construction project managed by his small company, Fowler Construction Services of Bible Hill.

“I’ve been doing this for years. When I apply for stuff like Gold Seal, the first thing they tell me is I don’t have educational credits. Well, I’m 60 years old and I’m not going back to school. I have a business to run.”

That’s where the Canada-Nova Scotia job grant comes into play.

“The grant helped me and two of my employees,” Fowler said. “It’s a lot more affordable, and we all come out with Gold Seal.”

The Gold Seal Certification program confirms that construction tradespeople demonstrate expertise and commitment and ensures that practitioners are qualified to meet project demands across the country.

A $16,000 Canada Job Grant, one of 24 such investments from the federal government that are delivered through the province’s Workplace Innovation and Productivity Skills Incentive Program, spurred Fowler’s decision to take further training.

“The grant was a big deal,” he said. “It’s very expensive. When they are going to cost-share the way they do, it makes it much more affordable. It was worth doing.”

Fowler, company site superintendent Jeffrey Fowler and project manager Sterling Mingo are in the middle of six months of online training in the office, augmented by some on-site tutelage at the Construction Association of Nova Scotia site in Dartmouth.

“The training for the three of us was about $32,000, and they (government) contributed 50 per cent.”

The trainees work on things that are relevant to their jobs.

“For me, a lot of it is confirming what I thought I already knew,” Fowler said. “To get other people to think that, we know it is another thing.”

He said his site superintendent is taking courses that include direction on how to run job sites and how to deal with employees. His project manager is taking courses geared to that side of the construction-management work and all three are taking a constructional law course that helps them deal with “liens and holdbacks, and all those nice things.”

The Canada Job Grant uses federal dollars to provide up to $15,000 per person for training costs.

“In Canada today, there is a huge deficit in trained employees to apply for jobs which are being offered,” said Conservative MP Scott Armstrong, parliamentary secretary to the federal employment minister.

“We want to make sure that the training opportunities are there, that we can attract new young people to do these jobs and get the training they need.”

Armstrong said the job grant program involves both levels of government and private industry in a plan intended to level the playing field between public investment in training and private investment, which is lacking.

“The role of the province is to administer all this. They have the infrastructure on the ground to disperse the funds. The federal government is transferring the money, the province is administering it and the employer is actually directing it. This is a new way to do training in Canada.”

Armstrong said the Fowler grant is the first one in Nova Scotia, but the province is almost fully booked for the year. Once the program is fully implemented, more than $7.9 million per year will be invested through the grant program in Nova Scotia, part of about $300 million per year that will be doled out across the country.

Armstrong said he couldn’t give a specific number of how many Nova Scotians will benefit from the grant program.

“We put a lot of flexibility in this to meet the needs on the ground.”

He said the province needs a whole generation of workers to upgrade their training while bringing a new generation of apprentices into the construction, mining and manufacturing industries.