Stronger push needed to encourage more skilled trades workers

Growing up, my father worked within the trades in many capacities before settling in as an electrician – going back to school when he was in his early 40s. In many ways, the trades have always been a part of my life. I became very good at holding the flashlight while he was working on his latest home project; which I suspect most people born with a parent in the trades can attest to.

Like many of the people in the mechanical trades, he will be looking towards retirement within the next 10 years – give or take a few. Our industry will be short of skilled workers. But this isn’t news. We have seen shortage of skilled workers for years and it will only get worse if nothing is done. But what can we do?

Speaking to people in the industry, there have been ideas such as going into schools to promote trades, creating public relations campaigns on social media and in the news, and through government funding to name a few. We are looking for solutions, but nobody seems to have the answer.

Which approach will actually work remains to be seen. My best guess is that it needs to be a combination of approaches.

Provincial governments have created their own public relations initiative to push away the stigma of trades. They did this through National Skilled Trades and Technology Week. In Ontario, an “online hub” was created to help people explore the trades.

In Alberta, the minister of advanced education used the week to bring up the shortage of skilled tradespeople; specifically, the 20,000 tradespeople that are expected to retire in the next five years in that province alone.

These programs are a good start. The government needs to work along with the industry associations in getting more people into the trades. But it can’t stop there. There is money in the trades to be made and people know that. Yet we still don’t have enough.

There needs to be more programs in schools for students to pursue. But there also needs to be more students interested in those said programs. The trade “stigma” is the first thing that needs to be corrected. This might include things like introducing the trades at younger ages and getting the students used to subjects related to the trades or a stronger public relations initiative.

Whatever the solution, we need to do it fast because those currently in the trades will retire regardless of what we do. Anyone that calls themselves a tradesperson should be proud, and let others know how amazing a career within the trades can be.


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