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Industry Voices: ITA celebrates 150 years of building Canada and looks to the future

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by Gary Herman

A century-and-a-half ago this year, a select group of idealists came together with a shared goal: to establish a strong, united, true north nation.
Industry Voices: ITA celebrates 150 years of building Canada and looks to the future
Photo: Gary Herman

Their tools were not in hand, but in heart and what was assembled in 1867 could not be seen or touched, but it was felt. As I look ahead to Canada's 150th birthday on July 1, I am reminded of what it means to be a tradesperson and how the country we see before us today was built by the tools of a pioneering group of skilled workers.

As the CEO of British Columbia's Industry Training Authority (ITA), 2017 also marks the next phase of our strategic plan, building upon a banner year for B.C.'s skilled tradespeople and the organizations tasked with training them, as our provincial economy leads the nation in growth and jobs.

With the Metro Vancouver region alone estimated to welcome nearly one million new residents in the next 25 years, the province is expected to see nearly one million job openings by 2025, with an estimated 123,000 to be in the skilled trades. That's roughly the population of Kelowna.

However, it's not just about quantity. ITA's focus on engagement across B.C. last year helped us create higher-quality, trade-specific information available to both employer sponsors and future apprentices, enhancing the level of overall satisfaction for employers and the 37,000 apprentices registered in skilled trades training in 2015-16.

As a generation of builders begins to enter retirement and millennials continue to enter the workforce, ITA has made leveraging the needs of in-demand trades with experienced practitioners top-of-mind. We're enhancing our youth programs and outreach in elementary and secondary schools for students interested in a career in one of ITA's over 100 trade programs in B.C., many of which fall within the construction industry.

With unprecedented investment in B.C. infrastructure projects at all levels of government, 2017 is shaping up as a year to get to work. From transit, transportation and natural resources, to renewable energy, starter homes and start-up businesses, B.C.'s skilled tradespeople will have a hand in shaping the future of B.C. from the ground up.

By harnessing new technology, innovative thinking and collaborative industry know-how through experienced employer sponsors, today's apprentices are better equipped to lead their workforce than any generation before them. Last year alone, B.C. had more than 10,000 registered employer sponsors, and ITA issued 7,640 certificates of qualification to some of the top in-demand construction trades, such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers, crane operators, welders and pipefitters.

ITA's commitment to B.C.'s skilled trades sector is rooted in partnerships forged between employer and employee, which is why our mission is to ensure both parties have access to industry-leading support across the province. Backed by the support of the Province of B.C. and the success of B.C.'s Skills for Jobs Blueprint, ITA continues to develop strong alliances between apprentices and their sponsors by increasing the accessibility of information to support the leaders of tomorrow's economy with in-demand, well-paying careers, today.

Moving forward, ITA will continue to work with industry to ensure our skilled trades workforce is ready to meet the demands of our growing economy.

As we begin the first year of Canada's next 150, on the West Coast we do so from a position of tremendous opportunity to support our strong, true north nation.

Though skylines will change and communities will grow with the economies that support them, there is one constant that warrants acknowledging as we celebrate the history of our country: Behind every great idea is a team of skilled workers with the tools to get the job done.

Gary Herman is the chief executive officer of the ITA and a member of the JOC Editorial Advisory Board. Send comments or questions to editor@journalofcommerce.com.

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