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Construct, a social enterprise by Blue Door, welcomes first cohort at new training centre in Aurora

January 23, 2023

Posted: January 23rd, 2023. By: Melissa Wallace,, Original Article.

Program provides training, experience, and support to help people facing homelessness to find long-term, well-paying careers in construction trades

On the first day of in-person classroom training in two years at a new facility in Aurora, Construct trainees were nervous, but excited.

Construct is a social enterprise program that provides training, experience, and support to help people facing homelessness to find long-term, well-paying careers in the construction trades.

Blue Door, a longtime non-profit in East Gwillimbury, developed the program in 2020. Within two years, Construct helped more than 200 trainees graduate from the program and completed over 120 high-quality and competitively priced general labour construction jobs within the community.

“There are a lot of employment programs out there, but many are streamlining people into precarious work or employment that pays a minimum wage, but not necessarily a living wage,” explains Emily Rowe, Construct’s senior manager, social enterprise. “A lot of the folks in our program are facing some pretty severe barriers to employment such as experiencing homelessness, challenges with mental health or substance use, or interactions with the criminal justice system, so we wanted to open up a low barrier program to engage them in learning and work toward a career that would pay them that living wage.

“There’s also a major shortage in labourers, and a predominant amount of folks that are currently working in the construction fields that are set to retire. This program helps to fill that labour shortage, reduce barriers to employments, and support folks to fill the needs of employers.”

Leeam Brown had been working a grocery store for two years and was struggling to make ends meet.

“I did school for a year, got a little in debt, nothing bad or nothing, but it got to the point where I just didn’t want to do school,” said Brown.

His mother sent him information about Construct and he applied. “It’s a great opportunity for my future,” he said. “Most jobs ask for experience, so these guys give you the experience you need to actually get the job.

“Not only that, but it’s all paid for and there are three of us from Oshawa and they bus us for free.”

In addition to trades-specific learning in skills such as woodworking, carpentry, and painting, Construct offers first aid certification, in-class employment readiness training, and connections to employers. In partnership with the YMCA, LiUNA Local 506 Training Centre, and Humber College, trainees receive resources and supports including zero enrolment fees, transportation, food support, and wages to successfully secure apprenticeships.

On Dec. 15, Construct celebrated the launch of the new training centre at 212 Earl Stewart Dr., units 1 and 2, in Aurora. Since then, staff have been planning the space and getting organized to welcome the first cohort on Jan. 16.

“The moment we stepped in the space, we knew it was what we wanted,” says Rowe. “It has big open windows and enough room for a classroom, workshop, and offices.

“It’s a space that everybody can come to and feel a sense of pride and connection.”

Construct’s new facility also received support from Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development.

“When you have a job in the skilled trades, you have an in-demand job for life,” said Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, immigration, training and skills development, in a news release. “That’s why our government continues to invest in projects like Construct’s new training facility that make it easier for jobseekers to get the on-the-job training they need to start rewarding careers and earn bigger paycheques in the skilled trades.”

To learn more about Construct, support trainees, or apply for training, visit Aurora businesses can also get involved by volunteering their expertise through guest speaking, running a trades workshop, or hiring graduates from the program.