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Mechanics and Repairers

Trades Enjoy New Popularity Among Job Seekers

With the number of apprentices expected to double in the next year, Kent Orrock believes we’re seeing the first steps of a renewed respect for the trades. He now entertains several phone calls a day regarding applications to apprenticeship programs and inquiries about how to get involved in this steadily growing industry.

Mr. Orrick, the human resources co-ordinator for the British Columbia Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association welcomes the interest. “It can only help recruitment efforts when it becomes a point of pride for parents to have a son or daughter who is a 'dozer operator, pulling down as much as $42 an hour.”

After decades of fighting negative perceptions about the boom-and-bust nature of employment and the hard work in construction and other heavy-industry sectors, there has been a steady increase of interest in a career in the trades. "They're getting in at a time when they will definitely be able to [work until they] retire in this industry," says Orrock.

The federal government has recently proposed tax incentives for employers who take on apprentices, and grants for individuals who sign on for skilled trades training. Sighting a serious shortage of trades people, the federal government is now attempting to make the lucrative trade industry even more enticing to prospective employees.

"The difficulty Canadian employers are having finding skilled tradespeople is becoming an impediment to economic growth," the government said in its budget documents. "Meanwhile, many young Canadians find themselves in low-paying work, and are either not encouraged to consider the trades or are unable to do so because of financial barriers."With measures to give employers tax credits of up to $2,000 a year for the first two years that they employ and train eligible apprentices, and as well as cash grants of $1,000 a year to eligible apprentices in the first two years of their training, the federal government is stepping up the push for more Canadians to consider a career in the trades.

The federal government projects that nearly 100,000 apprentice workers will benefit as a result of the new grant and tax credit. Industry associations and community colleges have also stepped up their efforts to recruit and train the next generation of trades people.In past years, there has been a strong amount of pressure from teachers, parents and friends to go to university. Opportunities in the trades have often been overlooked. This is gradually changing, in part because of industry association campaigns and promising labour market projections.

The common misconception that the impending retirement of baby boomers will open up jobs in all fields, across all sectors, is slowly being replaced by a better understanding of how the boomers’ withdrawl from the marketplace will shape the next few years. "The reality is that the most pronounced [recruitment] challenges are going to be for skilled trades and apprenticeships on the one hand, and executive management talent on the other," says Ian Cullwick, national human capital practice leader with Toronto-based managing consulting firm Deloitte.

With trade shortages already affecting some sectors, employers are taking a more active role in the training and education of their future employees. The B. C. Road Builders and Heavy Industry Association, for example, has developed and launched a new program combining classroom training with on-the-job instruction to support a number of highway and port-building mega-projects currently in the works. The first stage of the program, which is being paid for by industry, is designed to teach the basics of road building and heavy construction.

"The aim is to give them a really good essential knowledge about the equipment that's going to be used and how to maintain that equipment," he says. "They'll also be taught the basics of civil engineering, so they'll know about grades, aggregates and environmental issues." Says Orrock.

From there students can move on to apprenticeships in asphalt paving or specialized construction jobs. It gives them a starting point to continue working with heavy equipment like backhoes, excavators, bulldozers, graders and 50-ton trucks, or work.

Mr. Orrock says that members of his association are committed to providing management training, in addition to hard-skills training, for those interested in moving into supervisory and management positions later in their careers.Meanwhile, Mr. Orrock describes his ideal candidates. "We're looking for people who like to work outside and who don't want to sit in an office." If this sounds like you, we’ve made your search that much easier.

Given the incredible (and growing) demand for qualified tradespeople in Canada and around the world, Trades has become the hottest area in training at colleges and career colleges across the country.



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