Black Futures: GBC alum Chris Campbell builds paths to success in the trades for BIPOC youth

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Throughout February, George Brown College celebrates Black Futures Month. We’re highlighting GBC graduates who make meaningful changes today with an eye on the future.  

Carpenter, union leader and equity, diversity and inclusion champion Chris Campbell is passionate about helping others succeed in the skilled trades. When he delivered a keynote address at a 2022 George Brown College convocation ceremony, he shared a Maya Angelou quote that guides his efforts. "When you learn, teach. When you get, give."  

Campbell is a proud graduate of George Brown's Carpentry Apprentice program and the Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity for the Carpenters' Regional Council. He travels across the province to talk to industry reps, visit job sites, and connect young people to meaningful career options. Campbell is also Vice-President of the Toronto Carpenter's Union, Local 27.

"From Thunder Bay to Sarnia, you can't assume that things are the way they are in Toronto. So I go to each community, engage people and listen to what they're saying," he says, all with the goal of increasing diversity in the field and promoting inclusive hiring practices and industry policies. 

Connecting youth to opportunities in the skilled trades

For more than two decades, Campbell has been laser focused on connecting Black and Indigenous youth and youth from other diverse communities to opportunities in the skilled trades. He meets with young people at their places of worship, community centres, and other social hubs.  

Chris Campbell speaking at 2023 Black Futures Month event

"Wherever you want me, I'm there with the support of my union," he says. 

Following transit expansion and other development announcements in Toronto, he worked with developers to ensure they provided employment opportunities for young people from the surrounding areas. This work laid the foundation for the Toronto Community Benefits Network, of which he is now Chair of the Board of Directors. 

Campbell sits on several other construction industry and community boards and committees, including the George Brown College Foundation Board of Directors, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the Toronto Police Black Community Consultative Committee. He also volunteers for The Children's Breakfast Clubs. 

Addressing racism on job sites 

When asked about the working environment for Black people in the trades, Campbell admits it wasn't great when he was coming up, but positive changes are happening — changes he is helping to push forward. 

"When I reflect, I say, yeah, that happened to me, but I was too driven by wanting to make something of myself that I didn't pay much attention to it at the time,” he said. “I can remember some of the conversations, word for word.” 

Journalists covering a spate of racist crimes at construction sites around Toronto in the summer and fall of 2020 that included nooses left on job sites and hate graffiti sought comment from Campbell. He explained why workers are hesitant to speak up in an article published by The Globe and Mail in August 2021. "They can only walk away or keep smiling and keep going because they have their bills to pay and their family to support,” he told the paper.  

When questioned by the media or anyone else about racism on the job, Campbell says he speaks openly and honestly about the issue. 

 "I tell both sides, the good and the bad, the challenges and the success." 

Work that resonates with new tradespeople 

The advice, support and straight talk Campbell provides have meant a lot to many. He said he often receives emails and phone calls from people he’s helped get work in the skilled trades. 

“Earlier in my career, there were a lot of Caribbean folks, but today it's more international. You have people from Africa, Asia, and all over the world,” he said. “So, it tells me that maybe what I did and said resonated with them.” 

Chris Campbell Perseverance Award 

Check out Campbell's keynote speech highlighting the importance of resilience and perseverance at our Legacy Convocation Ceremony in October 2022 in the video above. 

As a member of the George Brown College Foundation Board of Directors, Campbell works to increase access to education and support the needs of GBC's diverse student population. He recently launched the Chris Campbell Perseverance Award, highlighting the achievements of BIPOC students enrolled at the Angelo DelZotto School of Construction Management and the School of Apprenticeship and Skilled Trades at the Centre for Construction and Engineering Technologies. 

Campbell launched the award with his $25,000 donation. He aims to raise $100,000 for the award's endowment fund. 



Campbell came to Canada from Jamaica as a young man with $20 in his pocket. Attending George Brown was a turning point in his life in a new country, and now he wants to give back. 

"When you get help when you need it the most, you never forget it,” he said. “You never forget it because you're at that point where it's very impactful. That’s what George Brown means to me.” 

George Brown College honoured Campbell’s achievements at our 2022 convocation ceremonies by conferring on him an Honorary Advanced Diploma – Building Renovation Technology.