The government has announced it’s revamping its immigration rules to increase the speed of skilled trades immigrants into Canada.
It is a welcome move for manufacturers in Canada desperate to fill jobs in their plants with skilled machinists and welders.
It’s the right direction too; statistics from industry associations and government data indicate by 2020 Canada will need hundreds of thousands of skilled workers and only about half are currently coming from domestic sources.
Yet the number of skilled workers from domestic sources isn’t going to increase unless we address two underlying problems with the skilled trades shortage: a poor apprenticeship program and parents’ desire to send their children to university instead of technical schools.
Indeed, I would argue that it is our sentiments towards manufacturing education that is the bigger problem. If you ask 10 parents of young children if they would like their children to be doctors and lawyers or machinists and welders, chances are eight of them will choose the university degree-required careers for doctors and lawyers. And that bias against technical education is often carried on in secondary schools with guidance teachers. It is this bias that is turning students away from technical programs, leading to the cancellations of machinist and other manufacturing technology programs at technical schools.
There is a misconception that if children don’t go to university they won’t have a chance at a good life with a job that pays well and offers good benefits. That is far from the truth–as those in manufacturing know–and we need to do a better job at educating society about the types of career choices available to the next generation of young people leaving high school.
As job shop owner Flemming Jensen (JenFab Metal Fabricators, Concord, ON) says in our Job Shops Roundtable in this issue, “most people push their kids to go to university but of any graduating class, only 20 per cent are university material, so many fail and parents aren’t doing their kids any favours. Universities will always take their money because they are like a business, but the truth is, many kids shouldn’t be in university and would do better in a technical college.”
So as the government continues its efforts to attract skilled trades workers into Canada from abroad to help fill the skills trades gap, we in Canada must do our part to encourage and educate the next generation of children, a generation that will help take the manufacturing industry into the future. SMT
Mary Scianna, editor, Shop Metalworking Technology Magazine