Skilled trades in Ontario

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As our high school students begin making plans for their futures I want to remind them, and everyone else, just how important the skilled trades are.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, and I have no regrets now about the education I received post-secondary. However, for those left undecided, the skilled trades are incredibly lucrative and interesting, and there’s something for everyone. After researching the skilled trades I learned that between 1998 and 2018 the proportion of employees earning minimum wage has grown from 5.2% to 10.4%, with the majority of that growth occurring in the last year recorded. I count myself lucky that I came across my current job at the time I did. Out of college I was serving at multiple restaurants, and still not making enough to both live on my own and pay back my student debt (I only just began making payments).

Benefits of a career in the skilled trades include picking up transferable skills, which leads to many paths to advancement, use of cutting edge technology, offerings of paid apprenticeships and great earning potential on high-demand, high-paying careers.

Shorter programs mean more money sooner, and less spent on being in the classroom. The courses themselves tend to cost less and pay just as much if not more than many traditional post-secondary programs. These courses focus on hands-on learning, which means paid apprenticeship is a huge part of the learning process. Apprenticeships help get you out into the world, often leading to a permanent full-time job right out of school. Who wouldn’t rather be getting paid to learn?

I was disappointed to learn that students no longer have the “tech” program that I had as a middle school student at K.T.T.P.S., I seriously believe that that program benefitted everyone I grew up with. Every month students rotated through modules like wood shop, childcare, engineering, animation and cooking. OYAP launched their travelling skills showcase trailer this past fall, which I was really excited about, and Hanover has their Launch Pad – a similar idea for youth aged 12-18 to learn about the skilled trades, which is open four days a week after school as well as throughout the summer.

I have so much respect for my friends who studied a skilled trade after high school. They play such an important role in society and our economy, and their jobs will always be in demand. Your car will never stop breaking down, there will always be a leaky faucet somewhere and somebody’s grandmother will always forget how to restart his or her crashed computer.

I also want to remind people that the skilled trades aren’t limited to construction or industrial work. The service industry includes careers in fields like cook, hairstylist, IT and agriculture.

I recently learned that the demand for skilled trades workers is so high to the East of Ontario, that they are creating incentives for immigrants. I hear so many keyboard warriors complaining about immigrants taking their jobs – but in a lot of cases immigrants are filling the spots that we don’t want to. While you’re up against hundreds of phycology graduates for one position, someone else is unclogging your drain and making twice as much as you in half the time. If nobody filled these positions our society would crumble, and so would your houses foundation.

Some of the highest paying jobs – in comparison to demand – were the following (according to an article from MacLeans):

Elevating devices mechanic: $81,413

Millwright: $58,500

Steamfitter-pipefitter: $70,200

Industrial Electrician: $62,400

Heavy-duty equipment technician: $54,600

The Ontario Government has plenty of incentives for anyone thinking of going into the trades, including completion grants, grants for women in the trades, tool deductions or loans, scholarships and tuition tax credits. There are also plenty of incentives for employers.

Applying for colleges was such an exciting time for me. High school teaches you important life skills, but finding your “thing”, and studying in your chosen field is so rewarding, and I wish all of you heading off to post-secondary in the fall all the best!

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