By: Mike Anderson
On June 24, Georgina Trades Training Inc. (GTTI) got the green light from the Town of Georgina to proceed with its proposal to establish a Skilled Trades Institute at Willow Beach.
The institute will provide tuition-free training for up to 200 students a year to build modular bungalows, with classes starting in January 2021.
In a 6-1 recorded vote, Town Council approved $2.6 million in funding for the project’s capital costs. The monies will be raised through an Infrastructure Ontario debenture, instead of through the tax levy. And, the Town will be reimbursed through a 15-year lease agreement.
“We are very excited to be moving ahead. Today’s funding commitment is a real high water mark in GTTI’s 14-year history,” John De Faveri, Board Chair of GTTI, said.
“Our new Skilled Trades Institute will be focused on trades training that will result in helping people improve their lives through solid employment.
The skilled trades are finally becoming a serious consideration as a career path for secondary school graduates and as well as recent graduates looking to pivot to where the action is.”
According to Bil Trainor, Vice-Chair of GTTI, the institute will provide much needed skilled workers for the home building industry, which is experiencing severe labour shortages.
“We’re bringing desperately needed apprentices into the trades. After six months of courses, they can decide whether they will go on to other levels of apprenticeship, possibly to full journeyman apprenticeship, or they are job-ready.”
The Skilled Trades Institute will be located at 1614 Metro Rd. on three-acres of land leased from the Town of Georgina, which purchased the property, the former Sedore/Reed Farm, in 2011/12 for $3.2 million.
Mr. Trainor said the new site, adjacent to Clearwater Farm, is needed because GTTI’s existing location at 5207 Baseline Rd. in Sutton can’t accommodate modular home construction, and the necessary flatbed trucks to transport the homes.
The institute will feature two large Quonset-type buildings that will allow up to 20 modular bungalows to be built inside, protected from the elements, each year.
According to Mr. Trainor, it will not compete directly with commercial home builders.
“We don’t consider ourselves to be in the housing business; we’re in the teaching business,” he said.
“So all we need to do is build as many as is needed to sustain the institute. We’re a non-profit, and we will remain so.”
The modular bungalows, averaging 1100 sq. ft, will be built primarily as affordable housing units for low-income families, and, mainly due to student labour, will be priced under similar market homes, said Mr. Trainor.
“Affordable housing is is a serious issue in North America and every Mayor wants to do affordable housing. They just can’t get the partnership together. And so there’s no reason why we can’t build a quantity every year. The quantity will obviously be able to be priced under the market because we have a very low cost to produce it.”
GTTI hopes to develop partnerships with Habitat for Humanity, York Region, and the Town to ensure building lots are available, and homes are allocated to those in need.
“I don’t think the GTTI is in the business of deciding who gets the benefit of a very reasonably priced bungalow, but there are certainly other agencies who are well equipped to do that,” he said.
While the project required $2.6 million from the municipality, Mr. Trainor said the province has also committed substantial funding, although the final amount is yet to be announced.
According to Mr. Trainor, these public investments will have a multiplier effect, with the campus injecting nearly $2 million annually into the local economy, including the purchase of $6 million of building supplies, mainly from local suppliers over the first five years.
The campus will also employ 19 faculty and staff, contributing $1.5 million in wages per year.
Now that the Town has signed on to the project, Mr. Trainor is optimistic it could prove to be a model for other municipalities.
“We’ve been gaining some momentum in government circles; people are saying, well, wait a minute here, why couldn’t this be cloned in other parts of the province? And my response would be go for it, as long as the first one’s in Georgina.”