If StatsCan and the Peterborough Workforce Development Board are correct, kids entering high school this year and hoping to live and work in the City of Kawartha Lakes after graduation would be wise to choose trades — especially construction technology as an elective course. The PWDB projects that the City of Kawartha Lakes will see a 39 per cent increase in demand for carpenters between 2017 and 2024. That is the largest increase shown among surveyed occupations, surpassing elementary school teachers (5 per cent), truck drivers (18 per cent), and even sales representatives (27 per cent).
This is even more impressive when one considers that general carpenters are already part of the largest industry in the City of Kawartha Lakes. More than 200 local businesses with employees fall under the Specialty Trade Contractors umbrella, and another nearly 400 Specialty Trade Contractors work independently.
One person who must have had some advance intel on this trend is Madeline Carey, a 22-year-old working full time as a carpenter in the Kawartha Lakes. She developed an interest in carpentry while doing the repairs that inevitably come with living on a farm, and from watching her three step-brothers enter the trade. After taking high school co-op placements where she worked in construction, and enrolling in that specific Specialist High Skills Major at I.E. Weldon Secondary School, she had fulfilled the first year of her apprenticeship before graduation.
Though now able to pay her bills through her skills, she has faced adversity throughout the journey. She was one of only two females in her high school classes, and was one of the last students to be signed up to a co-op placement. As a self-described ‘girly-girl’ who likes her nail polishes, she has found it difficult to be taken seriously at the hardware store, and on many jobsites.
Carey points to one instance in an apartment building where she had built some shelving. A neighbour was impressed enough by the unit to ask the project manager who the carpenter was because they wanted some of their own, but suddenly lost interest when they learned who was actually behind the work.
Despite that, Carey is not discouraged by the barriers she encounters in the trades. She favours trim and cabinetry work in the final stages of a job primarily because she likes to see the project when it is completed, and enjoys seeing a customer when they are happy with the outcome.
Her advice to young women who have an interest in construction — or any occupation in which women are under represented — is to take the chance. Currently, women account for less than 5 per cent of the carpenters, welders, and electricians in Ontario’s trades. Self-confidence is crucial, but if you “know yourself and do it as you want to do it,” there can be great satisfaction in the work. For her part, Carey does not want to be a millionaire, but seeks to achieve a balance between her financial needs and her personal life, saying that many colleagues seem to spend too much time working.
She is not surprised to hear that the projected demand for carpenters and other trades is so high. Customers tell her they are having trouble finding trades people, and most of the carpenters she knows are working, with the best of them being booked up to two years ahead. Something to keep in mind when a young female shows up to provide a quote on a project for you.
LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS
- Percentage change in number of apprenticeships granted from 2016 to 2017: -12.9
- Percentage change in number of active apprenticeships from 2016 to 2017: -11.9
- Percentage change in number of new apprenticeships from 2016 to 2017: 0
- Average age of starting apprentice: 26