by Kirk Winter

A new, comprehensive plan to encourage students to choose the skilled trades as a career path was presented to trustees at a local school board meeting April 27.

Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) staff, Katherine MacIver, Heather Truscott, Kelly Neumann and Angela West shared the recently-launched Start Me Up campaign. It’s intended to increase awareness of skilled trades as a viable option and opportunity for high school students.

MacIver said, “This is a great opportunity for students, families and staff to learn about and get involved in the skilled trades. We want to increase board-wide knowledge of the pathways to the skilled trades and apprenticeships.”

Truscott shared a recruitment video, laying out how important the initiative might be for the future of the Ontario economy.

The film’s narration stated that in the next five years, one in five new jobs will be in the skilled trades. By 2030, the province will need more than 500,000 new tradespeople to keep up with retirements and economic expansion.

It also pointed out the opportunities for interested students are ever-expanding. They include technological studies classes and two credit co-ops that place students in workplaces, the Specialist High Skills Major program and the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship program.

It promised students long-term career opportunities, the chance to own their own business and portable skills that could allow them to work anywhere in the world in any of the 140 recognized trades offered in Ontario.

The Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS), a lobby group for homebuilders in Ontario, echoed the board pitch, saying a 2019 survey of 500 member firms found 79 per cent reporting company growth slowed and 76 per cent turning down work because of a lack of skilled workers. OCS also reported too many older skilled tradespeople not being replaced by younger fully-trained workers when they retire.

Truscott said, “Tradespeople have rallied around this programming locally, offering student placements and volunteering their time to mentor and instruct students.”

Truscott talked about the involvement of Georgian, Fleming and Loyalist College, who have all signed on to the dual-credit program that has senior students spending part of their day at college as they continue their pathway to certification in the trade of their choice.

“Across the board we have 400 students in 23 different trades enrolled in the Specialist High Skills Major program in nine distinct economic sectors,” Truscott said.

She added there are another 200 students enrolled in 36 different trades as part of the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship program, the first step towards getting their ticket, and local businesses have stepped up to provide placements for these students.

She said the seven most in-demand trades in the TLDSB catchment area are automotive service technician, truck service technician, carpenter, electrician, plumber, welder and hair stylist.

Board chair Bruce Reain called the presentation “spectacular.”

Trustee John Byrne suggested the “programs were fantastic and there will be more skilled tradespeople once students (through this program) become more aware of what jobs are available in the future. I am happy that TLDSB can make these opportunities available.”

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