With so much activity, and more people retiring than entering the workforce, there hasn’t been a better time to take up a career in the skilled trades. In fact, the province of British Columbia estimates there will be 1 million new job openings by 2022 — many of which will be in construction, skilled trades, and related positions. With multiple liquefied natural gas projects proposed across B.C., there is a dramatic need for skilled workers, trained apprentices, and trades helpers.

Cassandra Steele (20) is a freshman student in Electrical Foundations at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU Tech) in Cloverdale. 

Cassandra wasn’t interested in career paths that some may deem more typical for women. “I never really wanted to do anything like being a nurse. I want to work with my hands,” says Cassandra. “People were a bit hesitant at first — my parents were unsure that I should go into the trades, but they said the same thing when I said I wanted to do landscaping, and I showed them I could do that. Now I’m showing them I can do trades.”

Steep learning curve

“It was a little bit harder than I thought it was going to be; I hadn’t got a clue what I was doing in the beginning but everyone helps each other out so it was okay.” Cassandra’s teacher at KPU, Rafael Lagoutin, was a major source of inspiration — instilling in her an extremely strong work ethic. “He’s been great — he has really high expectations and teaches us what he’d look for when hiring an apprentice.”

Practical knowledge a “must”

While personal attributes are extremely helpful in getting ahead in the skilled trades, there is no substitute for practical knowledge. Dean Terry Han, Faculty of Trades and Technology at KPU, is keen to stress the benefits of applied education. “Strong math skills are important to be successful, and in terms of the employer perspective — communication skills are a must,” says Terry. “Students need to be disciplined too; it’s not like a traditional university program where you get plenty of downtime between classes — it’s demanding and you need serious time management skills.”

With the province of B.C. stating that approximately 78 percent of new job openings require some form of post-secondary education or training, it’s essential to prepare students for rewarding careers in booming industries.