There's a Great Future in the Trades
There's a shortage of skilled tradespeople in Canada, and Saskatchewan Polytechnic is doing everything they can to help fill the talent gap.
There’s a great scene in the 1967 film classic The Graduate where a family friend corners the main character, Ben (Dustin Hoffman), at a party and offers this advice: “There’s a great future in plastics.” Movie buffs will tell you such advice was meant to signify everything uncool to a 21-year-old like Ben, who just graduated from university. If The Graduate were being made today, a similarly “uncool” piece of advice would be this: There’s a great future in the trades.
Lack of interest in pursuing a career in the trades
A new and revealing study by 3M Canada indicates that despite thinking highly of skilled trades and the professionals who work in them, 76% of Canadians say they would never pursue a skilled trade for themselves.
This is mind-boggling, especially when you consider that tradespeople are not only in huge demand across so many vital industry sectors, but that they’re also highly employable — something evident not only in Canada but in many other countries as well. Even the respondents to the study acknowledge this; 92% believe “there is a lot of opportunity in skilled trades.”
Discover how much you could earn as a tradesperson
What’s more, tradespeople can earn very attractive salaries. For example, pipefitters and heavy-duty equipment technicians with four years’ certification had a median income of more than $100,000 in 2018, according to data from ImmigCanada, an immigration consulting firm. As well, skilled and qualified electricians in Canada can easily earn between $80,000 and $90,000 in a year — more than twice the median income for Canadians.
Again, an overwhelming number of those responding to 3M’s survey must have some idea of the quality of pay for tradespeople. 81% of respondents believe they would earn as much money in a skilled trade as they would in a career that requires a degree from a traditional four-year university or college. But there are other benefits to pursuing a trades career. Some tradespeople go on to own their own businesses and pursue other entrepreneurial ventures.
Tradespeople are in high demand
So, what will it take to take to get more Canadians — those just graduating high school and those who have been in the workforce for several years — to actively commit to a career in the trades?
It’s no secret that skilled tradespeople are in high demand right now. In Saskatchewan alone, the top in-demand skilled trades are: automotive service technician, boilermaker, bricklayer, carpenter, cook, hairstylist, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic, sheet metal worker, and steamfitter/ pipefitter and welder, according to the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum.
The shortage of skilled tradespeople isn’t going away anytime soon. According to the Government of Canada, approximately 700,000 skilled trades workers are expected to retire between 2019 and 2028.
Polytechnics filling the need for tradespeople
I believe polytechnics are key to helping fill the talent pipeline.
Offering hands-on training that industry needs and wants is one of the things that differentiates polytechnics such as Saskatchewan Polytechnic from other institutes of higher education. When it comes to the trades specifically, Sask Polytech provides the in-school portion of apprenticeship training for 20 trades. In fact, the institution offers training for nearly all the in-demand skilled trades listed by the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum.
At Sask Polytech, students are trained by industry professionals and our trades curriculum is developed and designed in consultation with industry experts. Also, our trades training facilities are innovative spaces with specialized equipment that encourage learners to work in multi-disciplinary teams.
Exploring opportunities in trades through programs
Recruiting tradespeople is critical to the future of Canada’s economy and our future prosperity.
Education is one way to recruit new learners. By this I mean educating both students and high school guidance counsellors, so they understand that lucrative and rewarding trades careers exist for young people.
Another way is through programs like Sask Polytech’s Women in Trades and Technology (WITT) program, which has seen an increasing number of women joining the trades and making their way onto building sites and shops across Canada for over 30 years.
There are also other programs at Sask Polytech to encourage under-represented groups including women, Indigenous peoples, newcomers, people with disabilities, and youth to explore opportunities and start careers in the trades to better support a skilled, inclusive, certified, and productive workforce.
In addition, Sask Polytech’s School of Continuing Education offers a number of Industry & Trade courses designed for those in the workforce who want to upskill or reskill.
While this approach would not immediately fix the shortage of skilled tradespeople, it would certainly put a big dent in it. And it would go a long way to showing Canadians of all ages that there is, indeed, a great future in the trades.
Consider a career in the trades with Sask Polytech