Discover and explore skilled trades

May 13, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Sandy Brown

Skilled trades workers touch every aspect of our lives. They build our homes, schools and workplaces, power our lives, heat our homes and cook our meals in restaurants we visit. Not only do the skilled trades offer a wide variety of career options, but they are the most in-demand jobs across Canada. 

In 2017, more than 1.4 million workers were employed in Canada’s booming construction industry. In the next decade over 100,000 tradespeople such as electricians, plumbers, pipefitters and carpenters will be needed in Ontario to keep up with the increasing demand. 

Starting in these fields requires a mix of classroom, hands-on learning and on-the-job experience – perfect for every type of learner. This apprenticeship process is typically shorter than university or college paths, and students have the opportunity to earn and learn which keeps student debt low. Students complete school with the experience needed to join the workforce.

To help youth and adults looking for a change in career, the Government of Canada offers several grant programs to assist in paying tuition, travel expenses, tools and books during your training. There are also grants to assist you in transitioning to work once you have completed your training.  

The demand is so great for smart, skilled labour that the income often resembles that of a doctor, lawyer or CEO.  While money should not be your only motivator for exploring the trades, it can be overwhelming with more than 150 registered trades in Ontario. There are many opportunities to try your hand at a variety of trades, whether at a career event, college or asking a current tradesperson to mentor you. Trades exploration courses and camps are becoming popular and let you try a number of trades to find your fit.

In uncertain economic times, one thing is for certain, there will always be a need for the skilled tradespeople. It’s difficult to outsource the electrician, plumber, or HVAC technician that we have come to rely on daily in our communities. 

Having this long-term job security is hard to come by in today’s economy.  Even if your job ends with one company, you should be able to find another quite quickly. And if working for someone else doesn’t appeal to you, you can also strike out on your own and work for yourself.  

Even with all of these opportunities, skilled trades are often overlooked as a career path. In a recent article, the Financial Post states that “in guidance offices and family dining rooms, the song remains the same: just 26% of young people aged 13 to 24 plan to consider a career in the skilled trades, with 59% of youths saying their parents have not encouraged them to consider the trades as a career option.”

It is more important than ever to encourage our youth and job seekers to explore the trades and gain the education and experience to enter these fields. Part of what holds students and parents back is the perception of what the trades are – repetitive, dead-end jobs performed by replaceable workers. 

The reality is just the opposite. 

Advanced technologies, improved delivery systems and innovative problem-solving has moved the many industries away from repetitive manual labour and offers new career possibilities. Strong essential skills – reading, writing, math and sciences along with mechanical ability and good eye-hand coordination are needed to succeed. In addition, successfully completing an apprenticeship program takes focus and hard work, just like traditional post-secondary school. 

Even during their training, apprentices require technical skills in order to work with simulators and online training modules. A study by the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum indicates that apprentices, regardless of their chosen profession, require high levels of computer literacy and digital skills to complete their education.

We have established the benefits of exploring and entering the trades for youth and adults who are looking for a career change, but this isn’t enough. We need to take action to create the workforce of tomorrow. 

To start this process, the Town of Orangeville is co-leading the Skilled Trades Task Force with the Dufferin Board of Trade. This working group is made up of local educators and tradespeople who are conducting research within our community to assess the trades skills gap.

During the upcoming months, the group will move forward creating a web hub for students, parents and adults changing careers to understand the opportunities and education needed to enter skilled trades. Focus will also be placed on creating a diverse workforce that attracts youth, women, adults changing careers and new Canadians for our local employers. 

Involving our employers from the start gives more depth to the project and addresses current and future needs. Employers will be highlighted to provide real insight into the variety of jobs, understanding of the workplace and connect job seekers and apprentices to jobs that need to be filled.  

There are many opportunities in the trades if you have a passion for working with your hands, essential skills such as math, sciences, digital and problem-solving and creative thinking in a growing industry that provides above-average pay and long-term job security.

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