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Industry experts warn about skilled trades shortage

By Harrison Perkins

Industry experts say high school students should pick up a hammer, instead of a piece of chalk.

Skilled trade shortages are expected over the next few years due to the number of people retiring compared to the number of people entering skilled trades across the country.

“In the next five to 10 years, we are going to see major shortages in a lot of the trades just based on the fact that people are planning to retire and they are of retirement age, in their sixty’s,” said Emily Arrowsmith a researcher and project manager at the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum in Ottawa.

The hiring rate depends on the type of trade. People who are willing to move for work will be more likely to find jobs. The economy also plays a role in the hiring process, says the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum.

In Ontario, there are over 140 apprenticeable trades. Those trades are divided into four sectors: construction, industrial, motive power, and service.

Tom Malloy, dean of schools of skills training, access and continuing education and the school of architecture and building sciences at Loyalist College,  agrees with Arrowsmith when it comes to the shortage. He said the industry is recognizing there will be a high demand for skilled trades in the near future.

“Ontario right now is suffering with a decline in manufacturing, a lot of what we would consider “hard core skilled trades” are certainly growing in the Maritimes and in the West, and part in parcel with that is because of some of the mega projects that are happening out there.” said Malloy.

In the Maritimes, major repair work took place to repair the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent icebreaker. The $2.45 million refit project included $1.05 million worth of work which employed a number of skilled trades people such as welders.

In western Canada, the oil industry relies on skilled trades people when digging wells and extracting oil from the oil sands projects.

The physical “hands-on” aspect of trades draws many people to these careers, but the government also provides incentives.

The federal government provides up to $4,000 in taxable grants to apprentices registered in designated Red Seal trades such as a bricklayer, carpenter, or plumber. The grant is not a loan and does not need to be repaid.

Michael VanDerHerberg who operates ‏Peterborough Careers, a list of employment sites for Peterborough, Ontario said he notices a trend in skilled trades.

“I think there are less people going into skilled trades but the demand for those trades will remain the same or increase, particularly trades like plumbing, gas fitters and electricians. I would pick those over going to teacher’s college”.

Students in high school who take technology classes are incorporating software programs and there is more of a blanket effect on skilled trade’s classes, whereas before they would all be separate courses.

Terry Veinert, who teaches construction technology and is the department head for the technology department for Centennial Secondary School in Belleville, said the curriculum has changed and there is a type of umbrella which group trades like carpentry, electrical, machining, automotive and welding into a few different classes.

“There’s a tremendous opportunity for skilled trades”,  Veinert said.

The Ontario Ministry of Education curriculum for high school students identifies a number of concepts that inform design and production in various areas of technology.

To address technological challenges and solve problems effectively, the ministry says students need to take the full range of these concepts and elements of technology into account.

As students progress through their technological education courses, they will come to understand these concepts more deeply, and to work with them creatively as they confront new challenges.