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Changing the perception

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The country may be experiencing a skilled trades shortage, but few young people are considering a career in the trades. After all, the jobs are low paying and dirty, involve backbreaking work and aren’t academically challenging, right?

That’s the perception of skilled trades, but it’s a negative one that the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF) and Skills Canada want to combat. They’ve come together to develop a national campaign called Skilled Trades: A Career You Can Build On.

The federal government is funding the $12-million, three-year campaign. Its goal is to change the perception of skilled trades among youth, parents and educators.

The campaign will promote skilled trades as a first-choice career option. Organizers hope it will help address the predicted shortage of skilled tradespeople as Baby Boomers approach retirement age by 2012.

“Deciding to enter a skilled trade can lead young people into rewarding and satisfying careers that will serve them well throughout their lives,” says Keith Lancastle, executive director of CAF.

The campaign features TV, radio, cinema and print ads this fall and next spring. It also includes brochures and posters, as well as a website (www.careersintrades.ca) that includes links to CAF and Skills Canada.

The campaign will target employers and their role in developing a skilled labour force for the future. “Convincing more employers to hire and retain apprentices is a critical factor in the success of this campaign, as well as the future supply of certified tradespeople,” Lancastle says.

Apprenticeship training combines hands-on experience with classroom learning. “For most trades, 80% of the training is conducted on the job, with the experienced guidance and mentoring of journeypersons,” Lancastle says.

There are more than 200 designated trades in Canada. Apprenticeship training provides the opportunity to “earn while you learn” and decreases the debt load while obtaining a post-secondary education.

The campaign will feature “Skilled Trades Champions” — skilled tradespeople who will speak at the local level about careers and opportunities in the trades.

“We are confident that this campaign will move us towards the day when enrolling in an apprenticeship program leading to certification as a tradesperson is a first-choice career option in the minds of young people, as well as those who influence these decisions,” says Francois Belisle, national executive director of Skills Canada.

“Our measures for success are attitude and awareness,” says Beverlie Cook, project manager of the skilled trades promotion project. “Our survey found people just weren’t aware of the opportunities available in the trades. We want them to know there are interesting, satisfying and good-paying careers in the trades.”

Quick facts

According to a recent Canadian Apprenticeship Forum and Skills Canada poll conducted this year by Ipsos-Reid:

  • 42% of Canadian youth claim they are unlikely to consider a career in the skilled trades.
  • 67% of youth and 55% of adults would choose university as the first post-secondary option.
  • 26% of youth said they would consider a career in the trades.
  • 60% of youth said their parents have not encouraged them to consider a career in trades.
  • 71% of youth said guidance counsellors have not encouraged them to consider skilled trades professions.
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