Sarah Watts-Rynard
Executive Director, 
Canadian Apprenticeship Forum

Most say they want students to pursue a career path that suits their own skills and interests. Few have the expertise to advise as to which path, which program, and what skills are needed in an ever-changing job market.  As a result, we often see young people head to university without much insight into the options available to them.

Discussing the opportunities

If you or a young person in your life has an aptitude for problem-solving, mechanical ability, good hand-eye coordination, and strong math skills, it is worth spending some time talking about opportunities in the skilled trades.  Tradespeople often prefer the active engagement of their day-to-day work, where they can immediately see their efforts come to life.  

With a whole generation of tradespeople approaching retirement, there will be tremendous opportunities for those interested in building, operating, and maintaining the physical infrastructure around us.  These hands-on careers are challenging, fulfilling, and well-paid.

"Certified tradespeople are better paid and are more likely to work full-time over those who don’t receive their certification."

By the numbers

In a recent national survey of more than 870 students, the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum captured a snapshot of perspectives among 13 to 17 year olds.  When compared to 2004 results, youth in 2013 are more open to considering a career in the trades. 

A vast majority say they believe being a plumber, welder, electrician, or auto mechanic are on par with being a lawyer, business person, or accountant.  Students expressed the value of hands-on learning, the importance of doing work you enjoy, and respect for the contribution of tradespeople to society.

These are positive indicators that young people are open to conversations about trades careers.   

Words of wisdom

For those looking to impart some words of advice, here are few suggestions:

  • Consider your interests and talents: Most adults are doing something very different than they first planned.  If you start by thinking about what you enjoy and your skill set, you will have opportunities to build on those qualitites as your interests change and opportunities present themselves.
  • Spend some time with a tradesperson: Learn what the job entails by asking questions and, if possible, by shadowing someone on-the-job.  Many students start something, and become disappointed when they realize that the job isn’t what they expected.
  • Learn about the certification process: Talk to someone at your local apprenticeship office to learn about the prcoess of registration and certification. Most trades combine hours in the workplace and levels of technical training.  Certified tradespeople are better paid and are more likely to work full-time over those who don’t receive their certification.
  • Try a trade: There are many opportunities to try your hand at a variety of trades, whether at a career event or your local college.  Trades exploration courses and camps let you try a number of trades to see what clicks.

There are many ways that students can investigate a great potential career in the trades. With these suggestions, it’s just up to them to decide what road to take for a successful future!