BUILD Inc. to end Winnipeg job training program without provincial funding

Without BUILD Inc.‘s job training program, Daniel Peterson suspects he’d be leading a life of homelessness, destined to die with a needle in his arm.

“I’d definitely be dead,” Peterson said. “Addiction is, you know, a really hard way to live.”

Instead, since 2016, the organization has given him the purpose, routine and skills to navigate life following cocaine and meth drug addictions and incarceration.

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But the social enterprise’s program that’s been assisting mainly Indigenous Manitobans overcome employment barriers for nearly 16 years, is set to shutter next week unless it can secure a major influx in funding, Building Urban Industries For Local Development (BUILD) says.

BUILD has helped prepare more than 1,000 people for meaningful careers in the trades, executive director Sean Hogan told Global News on Thursday.

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Trainees learn skills like painting, patching and working with drywall for two months in a classroom setting, followed by four months of on-the-job experience.

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Many are people who’ve aged out of Child and Family Services (CFS), experienced the criminal justice system or live with mental health issues, he said.

“It’s pretty heartbreaking because we have, on any given day, one to five people showing up at our desk without us reaching out, asking for an opportunity,” Hogan said, adding that many more are pencilled in on a waitlist.

“With funding, we could be doing between 50 and 100 people per year.”

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Negotiations with province fail

The province provided BUILD a bridge grant of $485,000 last April, a spokesperson told Global News in an email Thursday.

“The Manitoba government is happy to continue partnering with BUILD on Manitoba Housing properties,” they said. “The province recently renewed the social enterprise funding agreement for BUILD to be one of the contractors of choice for repair and maintenance in Manitoba Housing.”

Horgan, however, says the organization’s million-dollar request in the form of a social impact bond recently failed despite ongoing negotiations in the last two years.

“(The province has) indicated that there might be a call for proposals for funding in the New Year. I can’t take ‘might’ into the bank.”

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BUILD can apply for a provincial government request for proposal (RFP) for training services that will be issued next year, the spokesperson said, but it’s an application that doesn’t guarantee funding.

Horgan said $200,000 could tie the education program and some wages over until April, until the RFP is posted.

“Winnipeg is dealing with some very serious poverty and crime issues right now,” Horgan said, on top of expected vacancies in the construction sector.

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“We need to get people to work. We need to provide jobs, and we need to provide training for them to get there.”

Peterson and others fear many won’t get the same opportunity.

“That’s really, really unfortunate,” Peterson said. “I know how hard it would have been for me.”

Without funding, BUILD announced it will shut down on Tuesday, Dec. 27.

— with files from Global’s Brittany Greenslade

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