With a shortage of skilled tradespeople being trumpeted by many, going the trades route might be a better way for high school graduates, says the head of an initiative to promote trades in B.C.
A lack of skilled people to fill positions was highlighted recently when the B.C. Construction Association announced it was going to Ireland, seeking to hire 600 workers, pointing to what many call the skills gap – a lack of skills or types of workers.
Carole MacFarlane, a former career programs coordinator for the Vancouver School Board, who has been working on the Discover Trades B.C. Initiative, said the skills gap has been widening for several years and demographics is one of the reasons.
“We don’t have enough people to fill the jobs that are available and the up-skilling of jobs means that there are a lot of people that could work if they had the skills, but are not employable until they get the skills so that’s causing the gap to get wider and wider,” she said. “Some of the industries can’t find enough people so they’re going outside [Canada] to interview and hire people from overseas in order to fill the skills gap.”
MacFarlane, who was speaking during a panel on trades training at Vancouver Island University’s open house Friday, said she isn’t suggesting that every student moving on to post-secondary education should enrol in the trades, but they should be aware of the options because of the opportunities that will allow for gainful employment and self-fulfilling work.
This isn’t lost on students. Guy Ellis, dean of trades and applied technology at Vancouver Island University, says currently, for the foundation-type of programs offered in a number of the trades, there are about 1,800 applications for 330 seats and the number of people applying for trades programs have increased.
“Our applications are up 25 per cent, we’ll say over the last three years, but we’re only funded for so many seats and there’s a bit of a bottleneck growing with the greater demand than we’re able to supply,” Ellis said.
Kylan Bezaire, an apprentice electrician at Vancouver Island University, thought he was going to become a historian coming out of high school and he wasn’t considering trades. Nevertheless he is enjoying the path he has taken.
“I like the fact that it’s very hands-on and you also have to use your brain and you have to have a brain in order to do this,” Bezaire said. “It clips along at a good pace … but it keeps you busy and it’s a very in demand trade as well, so there’s a lot of work around for it.”
Ellis said that students are exploring potential careers when taking academic types of courses. Trades are geared for people who have set career goals.
“If they’ve already got something figured out, then the trades or technical careers – if that’s what they’re interested in, because they like building things, or fixing things – that makes it a natural for them,” said Ellis.