Local school board will push skilled trades with new plan

By Kirk Winter

Benns’ Belief: Revamp of employment services needed
The seven most in-demand trades in the TLDSB area are automotive service technician, truck service technician, carpenter, electrician, plumber, welder and hair stylist.

The Trillium Lakelands District School Board presented a new comprehensive plan to encourage students to choose the skilled trades as a career path.

Superintendent Katherine MacIver, curriculum consultant Heather Truscott, pathways consultant Kelly Neumann and dual credit counsellor Angela West shared the recently launched Start Me Up campaign.

Start Me Up is intended to increase awareness of skilled trades as a viable option and opportunity for secondary students and the multiple board offerings available to allow them to achieve their goals.

“This is a great news story despite the pandemic,” MacIver said, “as we are ensuring that innovative programming is continuing. This is a great opportunity for students, families and staff to learn about and get involved in the skilled trades. We want to increase board-wide knowledge of the pathways to the skilled trades and apprenticeships.”

Truscott shared an in-house promotional video for the purposes of student recruitment that lay out in stark terms how important this initiative might be to the future of the Ontario economy.

The film’s narration stated that in the next five years one in five new jobs in Ontario will be in the skilled trades. By 2030 Ontario will need over 500,000 new tradespeople to keep up with retirements and economic expansion. The narration made clear that the demand is going to grow and the opportunities for interested students are expanding.

It also made the point that between technological studies classes, two credit co-ops that place students in workplaces, the Specialist High Skills Major program and the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship program that fast tracks student into the trades, TLDSB is providing students “an opportunity to try out the trades.”

The video reinforced more than just the need for these future tradespeople. It promised students “long term career opportunities, the chance to own your own business and portable skills that could allow you to work anywhere in the world in any of the 140 recognized trades offered in Ontario.”

The Ontario Construction Secretariat, a lobby group for homebuilders in Ontario, echoes the board pitch to students, pointing out that in a 2019 survey of 500 member firms, 79 per cent reported company growth slowed and 76 per cent reported turning down work because of a lack of skilled workers. OCS also reported the worrying trend of too many older skilled tradespeople not being replaced by younger fully trained workers when they retire.

“Trades people have rallied around this programming locally,” Truscott said, “offering student placements and volunteering their time to mentor and instruct students. There is great interest in the community and the virtual evening sessions we ran rolling out this program were well attended. We are also making connections on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.”

Truscott was particularly pleased to talk about the involvement of Georgian, Fleming and Loyalist College who have all signed on to the dual-credit program that has senior students spending part of their day at college as they continue their pathway to certification in the trade of their choice.

“Across the board we have 400 students in 23 different trades enrolled in the Specialist High Skills Major program in nine distinct economic sectors,” Truscott said, “with another 200 kids enrolled in 36 different trades as part of the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship program, which is the first step towards getting their ticket, and local businesses have stepped up to provide placements for these students.”

“The seven most in-demand trades in the TLDSB catchment area are automotive service technician, truck service technician, carpenter, electrician, plumber, welder and hair stylist,” Truscott told trustees, “and half of our OYAP students are enrolled in those programs. We are hoping through Skills Ontario and programs like the Cardboard Boat Races offered to elementary students that we can get the attention of kids regarding the trades while they are still young.”

Board Chair Bruce Reain called the presentation “spectacular.”

Trustee John Byrne suggested the “programs were fantastic and there will be more skilled tradespeople once students (through this program) become more aware of what jobs are available in the future. I am happy that TLDSB can make these opportunities available.”

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