By Max Reid 
BELLEVILLE – The demand for skilled tradespeople in the Quinte region is greater than ever, but according to a local labour researcher, the need for specific in-demand training programs is not being met.
Brad Labadie, executive director of Belleville’s Centre for Workplace Development , spoke to an engaged crowd of tradespeople and employers for a breakfast event at the Ramada Hotel on Wednesday morning. The focus of his address was bringing skilled trades workers to the Quinte region.
Much of his presentation played on the theme that a lack of jobs in the trades is not the issue, but getting interested people through the training process is. Labadie used the area’s housing shortage as an example.
“We’re facing issues around housing right now. One of the issues is that we can’t build houses fast enough for the demand. That’s because we don’t have enough skilled trades available to build those houses.”
He called for co-operation from the provincial government in helping increase enrolment at trade schools.
“Their funding ministry needs to look at whether they can put more seats (in trade schools) in place – whether they can initiate programming (that meets people’s) needs in the local community.”
Derek Sloan , the Conservative member of parliament for Hastings-Lennox and Addington, told QNet News after the event that he is looking at expanding the options for trades training in this area.
“So that means working with Loyalist and other institutions to expand their reach in their program offerings,” Sloan said.
Loyalist College president Anne Marie Vaughan  noted the college’s importance in trades training. “The college plays a critical role in ensuring we respond to workforce and employer needs in the region,” she told QNet News.
“We have industry input on all of our programs within the college, but that’s for existing programs. There are some things in (Labadie’s presentation) that talk about a need for changes and a shift in curriculum.”
She named cost as a significant challenge for being able to run in-demand trades programs at Loyalist.
“Some of these trades are extremely expensive to run. And so how do you find new ways of delivering (programs) that make it cost-effective – that allow for appropriate training and allow for us to fulfil the needs of the labour market?”
Another barrier cited by Labadie for why the need for trades is not being met is a public perception of trade jobs as menial or low-paying. This stems partly from parents not understanding that skilled trades are a good career option for their children, he said.
Apprentices in trades programs are taught through experiential learning, Labadie noted, but he added that parents can benefit from that as well: “Not only do our students need to have experiential learning opportunities – parents do too. If we can provide an opportunity for parents and for educators to experience what a skilled trade is … I think the education isn’t just for the youth. Those other support people have to know too.”