Building Trades begin program to support Alberta workers

The Building Resiliency program aims to retain tradespeople struggling with mental health challenges.

Trans Mountain Pipeline

Crews work on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion near Edmonton. – Trans Mountain

Key Takeaways:

  • Many workers are dealing with mental health challenges, personally or related to a loved one.
  • This can be particularly challenging in a remote camp environment.
  • The program aims to get people help and keep them in the workforce by training employers, owners and co-workers to provide support.

The Whole Story:

The Building Trades of Alberta (BTA) is looking to support workers and employers with a new mental health and recovery program.

The BTA will use a $650,000 grant from Alberta Health to create the Building Resiliency program which will promote and raise awareness about the importance of mental health, wellness, resiliency and recovery.

Ian Robb, chairman of the board for the BTA, explained that workers in Alberta – especially those doing remote work in camps – face many pressures and are often kicked aside if they reach out for help. 

“You got a guy or a gal that’s thousands of kilometres away from home, their family, their friends and they are in a camp in Northern Canada,” said Robb. “They are working and then staying in a little room, worried about their family and friends. They may not be having an issue. It might be their kid or spouse having an issue. It makes them crazy and takes their eye off the game.”

He added that if they come out and say they have a problem it is often frowned upon and they are told to “suck it up” or “tough it out.”

“They should be ready to deal with this person. Instead, everybody hides it until they break,” he said.

The Building Resiliency initiative will promote and raise awareness about the importance of mental health, wellness, resiliency, and recovery-informed workplaces for its membership through customized learning modules.

The BTA aims to work with owners and contractors to establish a peer support program to champion recovery and resiliency. Participants will receive training and certification on mental health, wellness, and recovery coaching for identified peer supports on major worksites. The program will also provide specialized training to contractors and owners on recovery-informed workplaces.

The initiative includes an anonymous, self-guided and interactive digital service called Breaking Free, to reduce drug and alcohol use, reduce substance dependence and improve mental health, quality of life and social functioning. The digital services are also available for members reaching out for assistance for the first time.

“It’s an all encompassing new way of doing business,” said Robb. “They know there is a job for them to go back to, the company knows when they are coming back and how to handle it. The win there is the worker keeps their dignity and livelihood, the contractor keeps their contract with the owner and the owners get some real productive folks that just need a hand so they aren’t constantly in that retraining and searching-for-labour hamster wheel we are all going through.”

Robb noted that hundreds and hundreds of people in the oil sands and remote site world are site banned because of mental health issues. 

“They are working somewhere else and hiding it and the same owners are coming to us asking why we can’t supply people,” he said.  

November will be spent training for owners and sites. Next the group will focus on peer support training. They then plan to launch the Breaking Free app in early 2023. By early march the BTA expects to have recovery coaches trained up.

“You get a healthier workforce that performs better, is more productive and is more respected. The owner makes more money and gets more product to market,” said Robb. “The contractor can get more contracts. Everybody can win here.”


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