The skilled trade shortage is a problem facing multiple industries in Ontario and across Canada. Some reports suggest that in a post-pandemic employment landscape the work force could see a deficit of up to 10,000 workers in skilled trades. Clearly, recruiting more people into the trades is vital to maintaining Canada’s skilled labour force.
Thankfully, there are some proactive measures being taken to counter this growing deficit. One of the most impactful programs is the Tools in The Trades Boot Camp initiative being offered through Support Ontario Youth, an organization with a mission to support apprentices, employers, and stakeholders in the skilled trades industry by modernizing the apprenticeship pathway. According to Executive Director Stephen Sell, the boot camp program is critically important given the impending crisis in skilled trades.
“We all know there’s a shortage of tradespeople,” said Sell. “You can’t turn on the news without hearing about the shortage of tradespeople now and into the future as more tradespeople are set to retire. So how do we fill that gap? It’s not like you can hire someone and they’re certified tomorrow. Skilled trades are four and five year programs. We need to get young people interested now.”
Given the potential high and stable income to be earned with a career in the trades, it’s surprising that more secondary school graduates aren’t targeting jobs in these sectors. According to Sell, one reason for the low numbers of people interested in skilled trades careers might be the misconception they have about the kind of jobs available.
“I think it’s just a lack of knowledge of what’s actually involved in working in the trades,” he said. “One of the things that comes up is that people only think about construction when they think trades. That’s less than half the trades in the province. We have industrial trades, automotive trades, and we have services trades. In our boot camps we address each sector.”
Support Ontario Youth is in the process of facilitating up to 70 Tools in The Trades Boot Camps across Ontario, targeting both youth about to graduate high school or adults who are looking to switch careers or find a new one after being laid off. The boot camps are intensive one-day events delivered in three distinct stages.
The program starts with a hands-on morning session that gives individuals opportunity to complete a simple project using tools they get to keep at the end of the session. The second part includes learning skills related to seeking employment, including resume writing, offering mock interviews, and refining important interpersonal skills that help people conduct themselves in a more professional manner. The third part of the boot camp takes place during the lunch hour, when attendees get to interact with professionals from various industries.
“The idea is to have participants networking with tradespeople and employers to get first-hand information on what it’s like to actually work in the trades,” said Sell. “They have a Q&A session to find out more and an opportunity to network, the intent being to interact with those tradespeople.”
The Tools in The Trades boot camps focus on five primary trade sectors: electrical, plumbing, millwright, automotive service technician, and horticulture technician. They represent a great exploratory opportunity for youth and adults to receive first-hand knowledge about Ontario’s skilled trades career opportunities.
Interested high school students can talk to their technical teachers to get more information. Interested adults and employers looking for potential new apprentice candidates can get more information through the Support Ontario Youth website here.