The new Education that Works for You vision released by Ontario Minister of Education Lisa Thompson recently includes increasing student and parent exposure to skilled trades and promoting the trades through education.
“Ontario students have experienced significant success through Specialist High Skills Majors and Dual Credit programs which have provided opportunities for students to experience skilled trades and apprenticeships,” indicates the Ontario Government’s website. “The Ministry of Education will work closely with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to increase student and parent exposure to skilled trades, technology and apprenticeship training and focus on promoting these high-demand career pathways.”
Sean Reid, vice-president and regional director for the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA), said the move is long overdue and is “righting a generational wrong in the school system.”
“This is something that we have been asking for — and that the industry has been asking for — for decades and that is first and foremost to promote the trades more deeply into the school system,” said Reid.
“We lost basically a generation of skilled trades workers because for so many years guidance counsellors, teachers and parents were telling our young people that the trades were a last resort occupation and as a result, it’s no surprise, we have a shortage of skilled trades workers now in the province.”
Through the program, the ministry wants to ensure students are exposed to a broad range of opportunities that will offer exposure to skilled trades and technology careers starting in elementary school.
It also wants to ensure there is access to experiential, hands-on learning through community partnerships and co-op placements.
Reid said it’s encouraging that the announcement focuses on parents as well as students.
“The minister went out of her way to emphasize they will be reaching out to and focusing on creating more exposure to the trades for parents. The data that we’ve seen from the likes of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum and other sources consistently shows that parents perceptions of the trades are the biggest inhibitor for young people choosing to go into those occupations,” he said.
“We have to get past these stigmas and this notion that the skilled trades are a second choice or a last resort for young people. Really, that work has to start with parents and at home.”
While there were not a lot of details included in the announcement, Reid pointed out that, “the most important thing is that it signalled an intent to re-establish the skilled trades as an occupation of choice within the secondary school system.
“It’s more of a vision and a plan. We are looking forward to working with the government on the specifics.”