Downtown arena construction leads to employment opportunities for struggling Edmontonians

water wings boyle street
A job fair is held at Boyle Street Community Services in Edmonton Tuesday, June 17, 2014. Vinesh Pratap, Global News

Watch above: Construction of the downtown arena is leading to job opportunities for clients of Boyle Street. Vinesh Pratap reports.

EDMONTON – The construction of the downtown arena is helping provide jobs to Edmontonians who may not have otherwise received work.

Boyle Street Community Services, through its Water Wings program, helps people find work by providing them with the skills they need to become employable.

“We help them with resumé preparation…mock interviews,” says program coordinator Joe Pillay. “We do a lot of safety tickets, as well, construction safety training.”

And when PCL Construction began work on Rogers Place, right across the street from the Boyle Street building, Pillay saw an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“We invited them over,” says Pillay, adding the company was a bit wary of the invitation at first.

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“But when they came in here and met the class and talked to them, they were so impressed with the students we have and the skills the students have, they right away hired two of them.”

READ MORE: Construction on Edmonton’s downtown arena begins

Not long after, four more people were hired by PCL.

“We were pretty intrigued with the program and saw it as an opportunity to maybe get some new people into the construction industry and create some awareness and opportunities,” explains Kent Dietrich, workforce manager with PCL.

A job fair was held Tuesday in hopes of finding work for more Water Wings students. Over the past 10 months, the program has helped 250 people gain employment.

“I want to start in labour like everybody and I hope to perfect it,” says Mohammud Ali Sfaili, who recently moved to Edmonton.

Those hired by PCL are placed at various construction sites throughout the city. And while they’re given entry-level labour positions to start out, Dietrich says hard workers are given the opportunity to advance within the company.

“They gain some skills and if they like it and it’s a fit to them, it leads to apprenticeship opportunities at one of our sites.”

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A carpenter by trade, Dietrich says he’s worked his way up with PCL and believes everyone deserves an opportunity to find a career they enjoy.

“We all started somewhere,” he says. “Somebody took me under their wing when I started out.”

While not everyone will be hired, Pillay says students are encouraged just by watching others in the program gain employment.

“It’s always heartening to them that a fellow student has got a job. And it’s always the feeling that, if he can get a job, I can get a job if I put in the effort,” he says. “Many of them come from an impoverished community and the ripple effect is going to be there.”

For more information on the Water Wings program, visit Boyle Street Community Service’s website.

With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News.