With the falling price of oil, some of that sheen has dulled, but the resource sector has always been beholden to global events and rising and decreasing commodity prices. “We have seen an economic slowdown in Alberta, but there is still high employment,” says Trevor Robertson, Business Manager at UA Local 496. “There are lots of baby boomers that will retire soon and we need to plan for this and start encouraging more young people to consider the trades.”

The trades have long suffered from negative stereotypes and have been seen as a career option of the last resort. “We haven’t promoted to young people that the trades offer great career opportunities,” says Robertson. “We still tell people that university is the only option, but then we have young people graduating, or even leaving before finishing a degree, with huge student loans.”

“It’s very gratifying working in the trades, because you can see the end result of your work,”

Pursuing a career

With the right aptitude, young people can enter the trades and make a good living, without the burden of debt. While unions, such as the UA, do a lot to promote the trades within the high schools and offer their own training programs, they’d like to see government invest more in apprenticeships and training programs, instead of relying on temporary foreign workers.

And if there are a lot of misconceptions about the trades itself, then so too is the notion that you have to work in some remote location to get a good job in the industry. There are a lot of opportunities for tradespeople in the cities, where you can earn a good living and be home every night.

A job for life

“It’s very gratifying working in the trades, because you can see the end result of your work,” says Robertson. “I know some older guys who were involved in the construction of the Saddledome 30 years ago, and they are still proud to say they worked on that project, and more recently there is the Bow Tower, or new hospitals.” The trades provide opportunity for young people to be a part of building the province.

Robertson adds that there will always be work in the trades, because whenever a facility is built it needs to be maintained. This helps during the down turn, because while a project can be put on hold, you still need tradespeople to maintain existing facilities and keep them running.