You are hereHome ›
Get a trade, get an apprenticeship, get set for life
If you have an aptitude for technical or hands-on type of work and yearn for a job that pays well and has job security (you know, like in the old days) you must take a look at the skilled trades. In a market that isn’t loosening up in a hurry, this is one of the most promising areas in terms of jobs and money.
In many parts of Canada — not just Ontario — there’s concern about looming shortages of skilled tradespersons. The construction industry alone will have to replace 77,000 workers expected to retire over the next decade and will need to recruit an estimated 120,000 new workers, says the Construction Looking Forward, 2012 to 2020 report, put out by the Construction Sector Council. And the Toronto Workplace Innovation Group (TWIG) foresees that “[i]n the next two decades, 40 per cent of new jobs will be in the skilled trades and technologies,” up from less than 20 per cent in 1998.
Another selling point of the skilled trades is the wages. “[T]he money you can make in skilled trades in phenomenal," says Byrne Luft of the international staffing firm Manpower Canada in the article Value of skilled trades workers to be re-examined. In this Toronto Star story, Ron Johnson of the Ontario College of Trades, points out that “[t]he average carpenter makes more than $70,000 a year and a drywall installer can earn up to $51 an hour including benefits."
A number of myths about skilled trade jobs persist, including that the type of work is not challenging and that only poor students go into the trades. In reality, the work can be complex and challenging, maybe even fulfilling. In this Talent Egg article Sarah Watts-Rynard, of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, notes how creative and hands-on the skilled trades are. “What sets the skilled trades apart as a whole group is that it presents career choices that are very hands-on. Most of it is creative work because these tradespeople take raw materials and create great things from it, like a carpenter turning a block of wood into a chair, or a construction worker raising a building.” There’s also a huge variety of skilled trades — everything from baker to millwright is represented in the more than 150 apprenticeship trades.
Another thing to keep in mind: although the skilled trades are hands-on, they are not as physically demanding as they once were, a fact that may encourage more women to think about this career choice. “While there is certainly a physical component to most trades, technology has changed the nature of how work gets done, points out the Women Working in the Skilled Trades and Technologies: Myths and Realities report. “Work in the skilled trades today increasingly uses computer software and mechanical equipment. The reliance on technology in production is increasing the demand for skilled tradespeople who have an aptitude for technology. The reality is that skilled trades require workers with a strong academic foundation in reading, writing, math and sciences, along with dexterity, stamina, good hand-eye coordination and balance.”
Outside of hair salons, (hairstyling is considered a skilled trade), workplaces that hire tradespersons are still undeniably male-dominated. Here’s one statistic: “In 2010, women made up only 2.5 per cent of registered apprentices in the construction and industrial trades in Ontario." This is from a web information page about the Women in Skilled Trades and Information Technology (WIST/IT) Program, a provincial initiative to provide low-income women with skilled trades and IT training. (WIST/IT offers two skilled trades programs in the GTA: a carpentry program put on by The Centre in Burlington and a pre-apprenticeship horticultural training program offered by MicroSkills in Rexdale.)
Finding an apprenticeship
In the skilled trades, finding an apprenticeship — which can last from one to five years — is the name of the game. Essentially, this is an agreement where you learn a skilled trade under the supervision of a licensed journeyperson (a certified tradesperson) while you earn income — you start out making 40 to 60 per cent of a journeyperson's wages, an amount that will increase while you train. As well, according to tradeability.ca, about 10 per cent of your learning takes place in the classroom, for instance, at a community college, where you can take the training through part-time evening courses, or through block release (full-time attendance for eight weeks) or day release (one day per week for a set period of time).
There are some financial initiatives available to apprentices. For example, if you go this route, you may be eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits while attending full-time classes. As well, you can borrow money for tools and equipment, including manuals or code books, through the provincial Loans for Tools Program. There is also a new scholarship for youth interested in construction-related trades. On the employers’ side, there are tax breaks for those who hire apprentices.
Once you complete the on-the-job and classroom training, you must pass an exam for provincial certification as a journeyperson if your trade is regulated. There are only 22 skilled trades in which you need to be certified, although workers in unregulated trades also often have the option to be certified and many employers and unions may ask for a certificate.
Finding an employer willing to take you on as an apprentice can take some time and effort. Consider talking to one of the employment counsellors at Employment Ontario (1-800-387-5656) about this. The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum recommends that you talk with tradespeople employed in the trade that you wish to learn as they may know of employers willing to hire an apprentice. Other options may be through a local skilled trade union/professional association or through a trades-related training program at community college or private institute. Finally, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) has introduced several imaginative methods to help connect apprentices to employers, such as the following:
Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP)
OYAP allows full-time grade 11 or 12 students to start training to be an apprentice while still in high school. For more information on this free program, contact the guidance counsellor or co-op education coordinator in your local school or district.
Co-op Diploma Apprenticeship Program
The Co-op Diploma Apprenticeship Program, which leads to a Certificate of Qualification, can help you train as an apprentice while you complete a related college course. In Toronto, Humber College offers a coop diploma apprenticeship program in the culinary field while Centennial College delivers four such programs at its School of Transportation . Seneca also has a program in early childhood education.
Modified Apprenticeship Programs (MAPs)
MAPs are apprenticeship programs modified to meet the needs of industry. In Toronto, Centennial‘s School of Transportation has partnered with companies, such as Honda, Toyota, General Motors and Canadian Tire, to offer a number of MAPs. (The programs are outlined in this document — just scroll down.)
Completing a pre-apprenticeship program with a work term exposes you to a trade and you get on-the job work experience so that you are more prepared to find an employer to take you on. In addition to the WIST/IT program mentioned earlier, there are other pre-apprenticeship programs in which both women and men can take part. These free programs, which may include employment preparation and academic upgrading, develop participants’ job skills and trade readiness. Offered by organizations like colleges and community agencies, they last up to 40 weeks and include a work placement of at least eight weeks. (Keep an eye on the apprenticesearch.com website as it contains a list of upcoming pre-apprenticeship programs.)