Skilled trades should be promoted as a first-choice career path

Jobs in the skilled trades and construction industry offer phenomenal careers for today’s youth, recent immigrants and those seeking a new career, but up until recently, were looked at as a career of last resort.
Promotion of careers in the skilled trades and construction has increased, in part due to greater government support at both the provincial and federal levels, but also due to changing career and workforce trends due to COVID-19. The pandemic has resulted in what some are calling the “Great Resignation,” a growing trend of people quitting their jobs or shifting careers completely. During COVID-19 shutdowns, construction was seemed essential, so many skilled trades workers in construction were able to keep working. This was also the case with other industries that employ a considerable number of skilled trades (e.g. manufacturing).
One reason the skilled trades – specifically construction – should be promoted as first-choice career path is the demand for workers. According to BuildForce Canada, in Ontario alone, over 92,000 construction workers will retire by 2030. Considering the projected volume of work today, the industry will need to hire, train and retain more than 100,000 additional workers by the end of the decade – including workers from traditionally underrepresented groups, women, and Black, Indigenous and people of colour.
“High job satisfaction is another reason the skilled trades should be promoted to youth.”
In residential construction alone, around 22 different specialized skilled trades contribute to building a single home or residential unit. There is tremendous demand for houses, meaning demand for workers in the residential skilled trades will continue to grow. Some of the more in-demand skilled trades in residential construction include: low-rise forming, house framing, high-rise forming, concrete and drain installation, tile and terrazzo installation and other finishing trades.
Another reason the skilled trades should be promoted as a first-choice career are the benefits – including high pay, job stability, good health and wellness benefits and upward mobility. For example (in terms of salary), a drywaller can start at a $40,000 salary and make upwards of $82,000.
High job satisfaction is another reason the skilled trades should be promoted to youth. In 2019, a report commissioned by the construction industry found that nearly two-thirds (65%) of the GTA tradespeople surveyed rated their job satisfaction between eight and 10 on a scale of 1-10. The average score was 7.9.
RESCON has hosted and participated in several events focused on career promotion. From these events, we’ve heard first-hand from construction workers what they like about their job, including the ability to see the end results of their work, working on something new every day, and the team approach and camaraderie of the workplace.
Finally, several resources exist when promoting careers in the skilled trades to youth. And the recently announced new Crown agency in Ontario – Skills Trades Ontario – is set to ramp up promotion even more. The provincial government, under the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, also recently announced they will begin sending recruiters to high schools to share information on pathways into the skilled trades.
The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) is a great program for youth offered in most Ontario school boards. It allows for students to get direct exposure to a skilled trade and in many cases, start working towards fulfilling some apprenticeable hours. Organizations like Skills Ontario, Job Talks, and others are doing great work to promote the trades both through digital platforms and direct outreach to youth.
Promotion of the skilled trades to youth – the next generation of our workforce – is a team effort and cannot be done by just one platform or group of people alone. Career influencers including parents, educators, guidance councillors and friends need to collectively share the positive benefits of a career in construction. Our future depends on it.
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