For many bright young Canadians considering today’s job market, the landscape can seem dire. The simple truth is that a university education no longer offers the return on investment or guarantee of employability that it once did. To this cohort, weighing the value of a minimum wage job versus a degree and a minimum wage job, an apprenticeship in the trades is an increasingly appealing career path.

Changing perspective

While some may think only of plumbers and electricians when they think of the skilled trades, the possibilities go far beyond that and include some of the most advanced and technical jobs in a variety of industries. Water well drillers find and access clean potable underground water for residential and industrial installations. Production horticulturalists grow crops in nurseries and greenhouses, caring for the plants and controlling pests. 

In British Columbia, Boating BC has recently launched a new program for marine mechanical technicians at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Students can enter the program straight out of high school and be accumulating hands-on work experience almost immediately, augmented by in-class learning.

An apprenticeship offers a real-world, hands-on education from professionals currently employed in the field, rather than from full-time teachers in a classroom environment.

The program, in total, encompasses 600 hours (20 weeks) of classroom learning and 4500 hours (roughly 2 years) of paid work-based training. Upon completion of this program, a student is a member of one of the most engaging professions around. “There is no typical day in this trade,” says Glenn Spartz of the Boating BC Association Board of Directors. “One day you may be diagnosing an electrical problem, the next day installing a new engine in a boat, the following day doing a sea trail of that boat with the new engine.”

Surging opportunities

And, perhaps most importantly for members of the millennial generation, the job prospects couldn’t be better. The marine industry is heavily populated with baby boomers just years away from retirement, and new blood can’t arrive fast enough. “Basically,” says Mr. Spartz, “no certified marine mechanical technician should have difficulty finding work for the foreseeable future. This is definitely a jobs-in-need-of-people situation.”

The same story is true in so many of the skilled trades. It’s no wonder that young people are increasingly looking at apprenticeships as an attractive alternative to traditional post-secondary education. An apprenticeship offers a real-world, hands-on education from professionals currently employed in the field, rather than from full-time teachers in a classroom environment. And it’s not at all uncommon for newly minted journeymen to start at $50 thousand or more per year.

So, young Canadians (and parents of young Canadians), you owe it to yourselves to consider the merits of an apprenticeship, whether it’s as a climbing arborist, a chef, a welder or a cremationist.  
There is plenty of information online. Resources like the ITA provide insight on the multitude of trades, like marine mechanical technician, available to you.

To learn more about the trades in BC, go to www.itabc.ca