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Trade reps interact with thousands of students

Trade reps interact with thousands of students

TORONTO – The skills contests represented only one aspect of competition at the Toronto event.

Another was the showcasing of dozens of careers at different trade booths, with exhibitors vying for the attention of the thousands of would-be trade workers wandering the aisles.

Fourteen-year-old Siddart K., a Grade 8 student from Woodbridge, declared himself interested but uncommitted after a hands-on session at a UA booth dedicated to steamfitting and pipefitting. It was his first exposure to the trades, he said.

“Yeah, sort of,” he said when asked if he was intrigued.

“I don’t really know many options.

“It was kind of fun. I learned a lot of things just from this exercise.”

IBEW training centre instructor Peter Caesar of Kitchener said one of the first questions the students ask is how much money they will make. They also discuss new extensions of the electrical trades.

“It changes a lot, there’s always new technology,” he said. “We’ve got network cabling now. We didn’t have anything there before but there is a lot of work there now.”


Electricians the ‘rock stars’

A colleague suggested the electricians are the “rock stars” of the trades. Caesar agreed, saying they had received 300 applications for 16 positions for the latest round of training.

“Electrical, we can always get people,” he said. “It’s the first thing you think of. A lot of times you think of electrical, plumbing, carpentry and after that people kind of don’t know what’s out there.”

Across the aisle, Aaron Rosenblum, an instructor in plumbing with Toronto’s Humber College who worked in the field with UA Local 46 for 14 years, is well versed in the demographics of the construction workforce.

“There’s a lot of retirement taking place, so we need to replenish the supply of tradespeople,” he said.

There are very few high schools in the Toronto area that offer exposure to the trades, he said, so the Skills Ontario Competition is a good opportunity to have instructors and working tradespeople interacting with young people.

“There are a lot of people out there who are mechanically inclined or who are very inclined to working with their hands,” said Rosenblum. “Seeing there is a product they can take pride in and produce on a daily basis, this is the first time they are getting to see that.”

Near the entranceway to the Congress Centre, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development had a prime spot to greet visitors. MOL employment and training consultant David Hartwick explained their exhibit space encouraged visitors to walk through a progression of games, set up to represent the three stages of becoming an apprentice.

First is finding an employer; next is fulfilling classwork and on-the-job experience obligations; and third is writing the certificate of qualification exam.

“The idea is that the ministry is going to be with them on their journey from when they start to when they are ready to write their certificate of qualification,” said Hartwick.

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