June 2017 – Phil Venoit Tradesman, labour organizer, community builder
Untiring promoter of the trades and relentless pursuer of worker advocacy, safety and training, Phil Venoit, is the recipient of the Camosun College Distinguished Alumni Award for 2017.
Phil Venoit graduated from Camosun’s Construction Electrician Apprenticeship (now the Electrical Trades apprenticeship) in 1985. “Camosun helped with my career by providing me with stellar instructors that cared. They were hard, fair and empathetic,” says Phil. His fondest memory of Camosun is the relationships he made. “I still talk to many of the apprentices I went to school with today, 35 years later,” says Phil. He’s quick to add another aspect near and dear to many students. “The cafeteria would be another fond memory, the quality and variety was unbeatable, at starving student prices.”
Phil worked in the construction, shipbuilding and repair industries for 15 years and apprenticed at Yarrows Shipyard in Esquimalt. In 1996, Phil was asked to work in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 230 office and, since 2002, he has served as Business Manager and Financial Secretary, representing almost 1,400 members working at approximately 50 employers on Vancouver Island. He’s also the Chair of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Provincial Council representing 12,000 electrical workers in BC and President of the Vancouver Island Building Construction Trades Council. In 2016, Phil was elected President of the Vancouver Island Metal Trades Council, after serving as Vice-President for many years. Phil has also been elected twice, in 2011 and 2016, to sit as a key delegate to the North American Metal Trades Department of the American Federation of Labour, only the second Canadian in the 110-year history of the organization to hold this elected position.
Within the community, Phil is tireless. He has served on the Program Advisory Committee as the co-chair at Camosun College, on the Board of Directors, and as past President of the Western Joint Electrical Training Society. He has served as a Labour Designee in Victoria on the Board of Referees for Employment Insurance Canada, and he’s a charter member of, and sits on, Victoria's United Way Labour Committee. After the passing of his mother, Phil co-chaired the charter of Victoria's Ovarian Cancer Walk, and has raised funds for many charitable organizations, most notably Diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis.
Currently, Phil co-chairs the Industry Training Authority's Maritime Sector Advisory Group, and is also the designated Canadian putting together a group known as Electrical Workers without Borders, a spin-off of the Doctors without Borders group. Working with several other countries, the organization will provide needed power and communications to countries that experience natural disasters.
Reflecting on being named Camosun’s Distinguished Alumni for 2017, Phil says, “The news about winning this award was incredibly gratifying. Some days, it seems like just yesterday I was that 18 year old electrical apprentice trying to figure life out, and you slow down just long enough to take in a sunrise, and realize you have devoted almost four decades to an industry and trade you truly love and respect. I see the award as a testament to that.”