CTMA investing big on inspiring youth to begin careers in the trades

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After working with the provincial government and six school boards to purchase new equipment and tool kits for installation in 28 high school across Ontario last year, the Canadian Tooling & Machining Association (CTMA) is looking to go even bigger this year.

The CTMA is planning to install new machinery and tools in an additional 30 high schools throughout the province, executive director Robert Cattle told members attending a plant tour and dinner networking event in Chatham this week.

“As far as we know, this is the very first time that an association has done anything like this, so we should all be very proud of this achievement,” Cattle said.

The CTMA’s goal is to expose students to technology at an earlier age and engage their interest in careers within the industry while at the same addressing the challenge high schools face in getting the latest machinery in front of their students. Cattle pointed out that such equipment is not only expensive but high school shop departments must compete for any available funds with other departments. Over the years it has led to a situation where high school shop teachers are making do with machinery which may not have been updated since the 1970s.

“In the majority of cases, this was the first injection in capital equipment that these schools have seen in decades,” Cattle said.

Cattle added that although it doesn’t make sense to make such investments into every high school, he believes there should be at least one school within each district that should be supported in this way.

The equipment purchases and installations are part of the Career Ready with CTMA: Expanding Opportunities program, funded by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. Another stream of the program directly focuses on people in precision metalworking, providing experiential work placements for new apprentices, high school students/graduates, workers who have been displaced because of the pandemic, post-secondary graduates-co-op students, and existing employees being upskilled for a new position.

“We all know that the majority of training takes place at your place of work and that our members train new employees or upskill existing ones on a daily basis,” Cattle said. “The simple premise of this program is to get some capital back to the companies that are incurring these training costs, and we do this with wage subsidies.  We are targeting 250 placements and placements can range from 10 to 16 weeks in length.”

Placements could be in machining, tool & die making, mould making, jig & fixture building, automation/robotics, additive manufacturing, and other related businesses.

Eligible employers can receive up to 50 per cent of wages paid up to $5,000 per placement ($5,000 for single placement; $10,000 for two placements; $15,000 for three placements) and can receive funding for multiple placements. Employers can also recruit their own candidates but must train participants following a list of industry specific competencies that can be tailored to individual positions. Participating employers must also pay participants at least the minimum wage rate and permit monitoring during the placements.

“The earlier we can get these students on the shop floor, the better off we will be,” Cattle argued.

Both Cattle and CTMA president Chris Hergott said the tide seems to be turning in terms of government and the education system appreciating the importance of an education in the trades.

“The school boards are starting to listen to our pleas that we have been harping on for years, and some are starting to change,” Cattle said. “Always remember that this is a system made by academics for academics but the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, Monte McNaughton, does really believe that not everyone graduating from high school must continue their education by going to college or university and is looking for new avenues to achieve this.”

CTMA is also looking to help manufacturers looking to place high school students in co-op positions. Historically these positions have been unpaid, and schools often had a hard time finding companies to take on students. Cattle is betting that applying a wage subsidy to these students too would help in hiring more students and is working with the Ontario Council for Technology Education (OCTE) to make it happen.

“We will be using the same criteria already discussed and be able to subsidize the wages paid to these co-op positions.  This is something that has never been done before and it is not an easy route to follow for there is no “one size that fits all” for all the many school boards throughout Ontario.  We are currently working out the details on this new initiative,” Cattle explained.

Finally, to further encourage Ontario youth to begin their careers in the trades, CTMA will start recognizing high school students with the CTMA High School Award. The award will include a $1,000 prize, which the CTMA will present during the student’s 2022 graduation ceremony. In addition, each school will receive a certificate of achievement to acknowledge their contribution to the future of the precision metalworking industry.  The CTMA will be presenting awards at 10 high school graduations this year.

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