Lead Story: Growing Skilled Trades Workforce
A growing rise in demand to fill vacant skilled trades positions continues to trouble employers throughout the province. It is not just a problem that is happening somewhere else. The lack of skilled trade workers is evident right here.
Simcoe-Grey MPP Brian Saunderson is aware of the shortage of experienced workers in the skilled trades in the riding. He is aware that a key method of addressing the growing worker shortage is to improve and expand skilled trades education in the classroom. To learn more, MPP Saunderson visited Simcoe-Grey classrooms and met with teachers and administration. “Education is the second largest line item in the provincial budget. Both systems are under considerable pressure. I have toured a number of both elementary and secondary schools in Simcoe-Grey over the past year and what we saw at each facility was the incredible dedication, devotion and commitment of teachers and support staff to ensure students receive the best learning experience possible.” MPP Saunderson said he was impressed with the positive interaction he saw between students and teachers in and out of class.
However, MPP Saunderson feels his government can do more to assist teachers. “I feel our system has been failing our students in a number of ways. We see that in the findings in labour market studies.” He feels the current situation is a little bit like the chicken and the egg dilemma. “Which comes first, the demand or the education. We must be sensitive to what we are hearing from our employers who consistently tell us that there is a lack of candidates with appropriate technical skills in the workforce.”
With these points in mind, MPP Saunderson says his government is focusing on a need to create a workforce capable of building new homes, working in large and small factories and working in hospitals.
Since 2018, the Ontario government has identified 144 skilled trades and has committed $700 million to the Skills Development Fund to support students and expose them to the many different types of trades. By 2025, one in five jobs in Ontario will be in the skilled trades. “Our job is to make sure students can get into either an apprentice program or a college course, and gain skills and knowledge necessary to graduate to begin what hopefully will be a long, viable and productive working career.”
While touring Simcoe-Grey classrooms, MPP Saunderson said one visit stood out. “When I visited Stayner Collegiate, I was impressed to see an active shop program in operation. Students were combining newly acquired computer skills with hands-on work in the shop. The school developed a community co-op component giving students valuable working experience away from the classroom in an actual work setting.”
A recent Ontario government announcement MPP Saunderson is very proud of detailed the launch of mobile skilled trades classrooms that will see interactive trades and tech trucks bring simulators and skilled trades related activities to nearly half a million people province wide.
The classrooms, built and operated by Skills Ontario, will feature hands-on learning stations and simulators for electrical systems, welding, crane operation, auto-painting, tire and brake work, heavy machinery and more. Over three years, they will let nearly half a million people explore the skilled trades and will help tackle the labour shortage the province faces in a critical industry. These three 12- metre-long Trades & Tech Trucks will travel across the province, providing students an opportunity to explore the skilled trades and speak with industry members, while learning about local training opportunities, colleges and employers.
To help deliver the province’s ambitious infrastructure plans, including building 1.5 million homes by 2031, Ontario will need over 100,000 new skilled trades workers this decade. “The need is great to develop a new generation of construction workers because of an increase in building activity and the fact that many baby boomers have now reached retirement age” MPP Saunderson said.
He added the province has seen some synergies between the Ministry of Education, Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Immigration, Monte McNaughton, and MPP Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities. “The message here is these types of technical skills and vocations are in no way seen as “plan B,” they in fact represent a very viable and production way to build a career path for both men and women in skilled trades.”