Mary SciannaClick image to enlargeby Mary Scianna


Much has been written about the lack of skilled trades in manufacturing in North America. Skills Canada estimates that one million skilled trades workers will be needed across the country by 2020 and approximately 40 per cent of new jobs created in the next decade will be in the skilled trades.

  • In the metals product manufacturing sector, approximately 20 per cent of skilled workers are over the age of 54 and will be retiring within the next decade, according to a survey by the Canadian Tooling and Machining Association (CTMA).
  • Industry associations such as the CTMA and the CWB Group as well as federal and provincial governments across the country have implemented programs for youth to encourage them to consider the skilled trades.
  • Skilled trades have also been a focus of the federal government. It proposed several measures in its 2019 budget, among them:
  • $40 million over four years to fund Skills Canada and another $10 million per year ongoing to encourage young people to consider careers in the skilled trades
  • $6 million over two years to create a national campaign to promote skilled trades to youth
  • a lower interest rate on Canada Apprentice loans with an interest-free first six months.

And recently the Canadian government announced a $6.9 million investment in Conestoga College in Kitchener, ON, to promote jobs in the skilled trades. The funding comes from the new Skilled Trades Awareness and Readiness program and of particular note is that it encourages not just youth, but Indigenous people, those with disabilities and newcomers to Canada, which are relatively untapped markets with great potential to fill the skilled trades gap. (Read Industry Update for more news about skilled trades initiatives.)

Ontario is not alone in targeting new groups to address this issue. BC, for example, has undertaken two initiatives targeting Indigenous people. Nation’s Creations, described by its organizers as a “social enterprise,” is designed to support workers in Indigenous communities interested in obtaining training on light manufacturing equipment and to support Indigenous artists. It’s designed to help Indigenous people develop viable businesses that can create long term jobs. A second program, Indigenous Peoples in Trades Training (IPTT) offers apprenticeships, training for women in trades, and Red Seal programs for machinist, metal fabricator, ironworker, architectural sheet metal workers and technician and operator training for heavy equipment and aircraft.

While attracting youth is a good effort, declining enrollment at many technical colleges across the country is an indicator that interest among Caucasian youth may be waning and industry needs to tap into new markets and attract different people who will fill the skilled jobs of the future.

The BC programs and many others across the country who target different groups of people is the right approach. SMT

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