For today’s graduates, trades careers are opening doors to diverse careers, new ways to enrich their education and improved lifestyles.

With the BC 2025 Labour Market Outlook predicting 123,000 job openings in BC’s trades and transportation sector over the next 10 years, students can choose from diverse careers.

“Trades professionals are vital to the local economy,” says Cheryl O’Connell, Dean of Trades and Technical Programs at North Island College (NIC), which offers 80 credit programs, including 19 different trades programs at campuses in the Comox Valley, Campbell River and Port Alberni.

The college regularly reviews its programs with employers and community groups to meet local labour market needs. It has also instituted work placements across foundation programs, connecting students to employers for excellent job opportunities on graduation.

One high-flying example is the Aircraft Structures Technician program, which sees its graduates go on to find employment. “Of our eight graduates this year, six have already found employment, and the other two are pursuing engineering degrees,” said David Nilson, NIC’s Aircraft Structures instructor.

In Campbell River, graduates help fill local demand for companies such as Sealand Aviation, where NIC Aircraft Structures graduates make up 70 percent of the employees. “I have been incredibly satisfied with the quality and motivation of NIC’s Aircraft Structures students,” said company president Bill Alder. “I have hired many of them.”

While trades once seemed at odds with a university degree, many students today find a trades education complementary.

For Stewart Walker, a recent NIC Aircraft Structures graduate, the program encouraged him to keep learning, while providing highly sought after applied design and structural skills that add value to his upcoming engineering degree.

“Once I was at NIC, I realized I really enjoyed learning and decided to go into engineering,” said Walker.

In contrast, classmate Emanuele Sipione had long been interested in the trades. The more he researched various programs; he knew this was the right one for him.

Sipione’s advice for anyone seeking a trades education is to be patient. “If you are good with your hands, and have a good head on your shoulders, you’ll be successful,” he says. Sipione has little time off after graduating, as he and a couple of his fellow graduates will be jetting off to Kelowna, where they have been hired as apprentices for KF Aerospace. 

Still other students choose from a huge diversity in the types of trades available based on their desired lifestyle, from welding and professional cooking to making fine furniture.

Briana Hayes, for example, was working in advertising for over a decade, when she needed a change. She left Toronto and moved to Campbell River to study welding at NIC. These days, when she isn’t busy learning core welding skills, she is exploring Vancouver Island by canoe with her dog by her side.

Her classrooms are filled with students in every demographic. From mid-career professionals like her to high school students earning their credential through BC’s Youth in Trades program, recent high school graduates and retirees, developing their skills and turning hobbies into startup businesses.

“Trades and technical skills are integral to society,” says O’Connell. “Look around at the infrastructure —the roads, buildings, bridges, vehicles, and the technology linking all that we do. These skills are essential to our economy and the job prospects are very good. Once students have identified their areas of passion, the opportunities are endless.”