Canada’s trades need more young talent. It’s a growing concern. Trades are the backbone of the nation’s economy.
Baby boomers are mostly retired, and the next generation isn’t far behind. Over 22% of the trades workforce is retiring in the next few years! Yet the number of Gen Z students seeking apprenticeships won’t be able to fill the demand (Gen Z falls between the ages of 11-26 in 2023).
Bricklayers, carpenters, boilermakers, cooks, and construction labourers are needed across Western Canada. Red Seal Trades alone will need 75,000 new apprentices per year, but are getting less than 60,000 new registrants.
Why is this? And more importantly, what can be done?
The Why: Degrees Are Still Considered the Gold Standard
Many parents, teachers, and guidance counsellors have pushed the idea that a bachelor’s degree should be the goal of every student.
“Though Canadians think highly of skilled trades and the people who work in them, three-quarters (76%) would never pursue one themselves.” – Research by the 3M State of Science Index
Universities offer prestige and big salaries. But that doesn’t guarantee future success. Not everyone who attends a university will graduate or put their degree to good use.
Skilled trades should no longer be considered a person’s last choice. Trades should be viewed as an attractive option with very good prospects.
Why the Trades are a great choice for young workers
- Fewer roadblocks to training and job placement
- Enter the workforce sooner
- Less student debt
- Qualify for jobs in demand
- Learn your job as you work
- Gain practical skills you can apply anywhere
- Enjoy work outside an office
- People who understand technology will adapt faster to the latest industry tools
- Be your own boss or join a company with benefits
- Start your post-secondary education while still in high school
The What: Changing the Story
Traditionally, trade schools haven’t been shown in the same positive light as universities. Both government and educational institutions are trying to correct this.
Hearing from guest speakers in the trades at an earlier age influences young minds. Vocational training programs in high schools could expose more teens to alternate careers, if they are encouraged to take the training and samplers offered.
Gen Z likes having options. Who can blame them?
Most importantly, parents should encourage their kids to follow a path that motivates their young minds. Skilled trades offer lots of possibilities for career advancement. There is a wonderful sense of pride and accomplishment that is unbeatable, making skilled trades a top choice for anyone looking for a rewarding, lucrative career.
In the Trades You Earn as You Learn
The cost of going to university keeps rising. University grads will take on a lot of debt. According to the TD website, the average student loan takes about ten years to repay.
Courses in plumbing, construction, HVAC and other Red Seal trades provide on-the-job training. You’ll earn money faster and take on less debt learning a skilled trade.
The Government Wants to Help
The Government of Canada offers loans, grants, and other financial support if you join the trades. You may qualify for additional financial assistance if you are a woman or an indigenous person.
The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum is a great reference for anyone thinking about the trades.
The Canada Apprentice Loan provides interest-free loans up to $4,000 for technical training in Red Seal trades.
The Apprenticeship Incentive Grant (AIG) provides $1,000 per year for Red Seal apprentices who have completed their first or second year of training.
The Apprenticeship Completion Grant provides a $2,000 cash grant for apprentices who complete their training. Tradespeople may be able to deduct up to $500 on their taxes to buy tools.
If you want more grants and financial aid, visit the Supports for Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship page on the Government of Canada website.
You can also apply for grants through your province.
Young people in Alberta can check their government’s Apprenticeship and Industry Training page.
Alberta recognizes the need for skilled trades workers. The province has invested millions into Skills Canada Alberta, a non-profit promoting trades work. They are also investing in Women Building Futures, an organisation that helps women find careers with a living wage.
For youth in British Columbia, you should visit SkilledTradesBC.
BC is just one of the Canadian Provinces affected by the shortage of young trades workers. The Government of BC is encouraging people to register as an apprentice or certify as a journeyperson. This is part of the Skilled Trades BC Act. By doing so, you will qualify for additional financial support. You can receive aid for child care, living expenses, and travel costs.
The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum is another good resource for young people across the country thinking about their future.
The Trades Today Are Different
Technology is changing the way people work in the trades. Who better to embrace these changes than Gen Z? It’s an exciting time to be in the trades!
Augmented reality (AR) is now being used in construction plans. Virtual reality is used for construction training. New software allows for better efficiency at the worksite. Drones are another popular technology with many uses, from construction surveys to roofing inspections. Field management and office support softwares are already common.
Companies that don’t adopt new technology will soon be left in the dust.
Trades companies everywhere are working smarter, not harder. Gen Z will expect to work with these new methods and technologies.
More Trades Programs in High Schools
Post-secondary schools, including the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), are partnering with high schools in BC and Alberta on dual credit programs.
Dual credit programs allow high school students to earn trades school credits.
Rutland Senior Secondary in Kelowna, BC, is one example. They offer students in grades 10, 11, and 12 the chance to work toward their future careers:
- Electricity & Industrial Electronics
- Refrigeration & A/C
- And more
The team at Tradesflow applauds the efforts of the schools and non-profits working to sustain the trades. Supporting Canada’s economy and helping young people find meaningful work is important.
If you or someone you know is considering a career in the skilled trades, there is no better time to get started.