Giving Back: Metrolinx Community Benefits and Supports Program
Metrolinx is providing jobs within projects to low-income communities, newcomers and more.
Jan 29, 2024
At Metrolinx, we're doing more than just building transit connections – we're building meaningful connections with people and communities.
Through opportunities such as trade apprenticeships and employment in professional, administrative, and technical positions, our Community Benefits and Supports Program has been providing economic and social benefits since it first started almost 10 years ago.
In fact, Metrolinx is the first transit agency in Ontario to offer a community benefits program
How did it start?
It began in 2013, when the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN), a community-based organization, approached Metrolinx when they saw work starting in the Weston Mt. Dennis community for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.
The Weston Mt. Dennis area had experienced several economic impacts with construction happening at the heart of the Kodak Mount Dennis Campus, also known as Kodak Heights, an industrial park which would see many businesses close and have financial impacts on the community.
“The TCBN met with senior staff and the CEO at that time and put forward a plan,” explained Judy Brooks, manager of the Community Benefits and Supports Program at Metrolinx.
Brooks explains the plan would help take provincial dollars that were going into transit infrastructure and create jobs to ensure that communities such as the one in Weston Mt. Dennis would further benefit from building of the Light Rail Transit.
The Community Benefits and Supports Program officially started on the Eglinton Crosstown in April 2014, and then expanded to the Finch West LRT and the Hazel McCallion LRT in Mississauga.
Since the program started for all three Light Rail Transit projects, there has been a total of 1,724 hires and a total economic benefit of $171.2 million to local businesses and social enterprises.
Beyond the numbers, there are stories of success with the hiring of people who needed these jobs, not to mention the positive impact on local businesses and social enterprises.
Brooks says the program has helped hire people who experienced underemployment and unemployment into jobs and positions that have made a difference in their lives.
“I came to Canada as a newcomer in 2022 with no Canadian experience or education from a Canadian institution,” recalls Elham Milani who is now a design coordinator for the Mosaic Transit Group.
At the time, she was anxious about starting her career in Canada. She had heard about the Community internship program through the Toronto Community Benefits Network.
She was selected for a three-month internship after being screened and interviewed with the technical design department at the Mosaic Transit Group.
The training gave her the tools and skills needed to be able to apply for a permanent full-time position.
“The community benefits program for the Finch West LRT project has given me the opportunity and confidence to keep going in my career path.”
Milani says she is grateful for the program that helped her, and 10 other interns get their foot into the construction field.
Community Benefits going forward
Along with helping people, the program is helping build better communities.
The constructors on the transit projects have been putting together events such as helping local food banks, contributing to school programs with backpacks and building benches for school lunch programs.
They have also provided opportunities for internationally trained professionals to gain invaluable Canadian experience through mentorship programs.
“I feel proud to have been involved with this program from the beginning and to hear from people who have benefitted from a program that has changed their life,” explains Brooks.
“It feels good to know we are making a difference.”
The program has grown substantially and is now being expanded to all Metrolinx transit projects, such as the Ontario Line, Scarborough Subway Expansion, Yonge Street North Subway Expansion, Eglinton Crosstown West Expansion as well as the Hamilton LRT - to name a few.
According to Brooks, the goal now is to continue to roll-out the program while opening doors to more opportunities for women, Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) and low-income communities.
“We want to continue to change people’s lives and continue to connect communities.”