Across Canada, young people are hearing a call to put down the university syllabus and pick up a trade. As employers across the country speak to the difficulty of finding skilled tradespeople, opportunities for enthusiastic youth who want to make a career in the construction, manufacturing, automotive power or service sectors are on the rise. For those who want an engaging, hands-on career, this is an excellent path to pursue.

It all starts with an apprenticeship, where young people learn hands-on and workplace-specific skills on-the-job. Roughly 80 percent of their time is spent working with a certified journeyperson who mentors and teaches them the skills of the trade. This is no unpaid internship – apprentices are paid an increasing percentage of a journeyperson’s wage as they progress. They return to school for eight to 12 weeks each year, learning the theory and practising new skills at a college or union training centre.

Not your typical degree

Like many university degrees, most apprenticeships last four years. The difference is that very few apprentices finish their training with student debt and all of them have practical experience to serve as a foundation for their career. Later in life, tradespeople often become mentors, managers, supervisors, trades instructors and entrepreneurs.

Today’s youth tell the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum they are open to a career in the skilled trades. They value hands-on work and the contribution tradespeople make to the economy. Parents tell us they want to find ways to support their children’s ambitions, seeking guidance about the right high school courses to take and the job opportunities available to apprentices.

“The difference is that very few apprentices finish their training with student debt and all of them have practical experience to serve as a foundation for their career.”

Develop a skillset — continuosly

One concern parents raise is the perception that tradespeople can’t rely on steady work. The reality is that journeypersons are always working themselves out of a job, using their expertise to complete the tasks required to build, operate, maintain and repair. But, it’s important to remember that trade skills don’t lose their value when the job is finished. In fact, these skills are transferable to other worksites, companies, sectors and regions. Whether across the street or around the world, hands-on skills are always in demand.

Since apprenticeship largely relies on available jobs, youth should be focusing on areas of immediate demand, understanding that the nature of the work will open up diverse opportunities in the course of their careers. Knock on the doors of a few employers. Visit a local college or training centre. Ask tradespeople about their careers – how they got started, where they are now and what it takes to get there too. Once you choose the trade that’s right for you, the opportunities are endless.

Source: Alberta Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour