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Co-operative approach needed to tackle looming skill shortages across the country

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by Kelly Lapointe

As businesses try to find a way to tackle the looming skills shortage, collaboration and the sharing of best practices can help lead the way.

As businesses try to find a way to tackle the looming skills shortage, collaboration and the sharing of best practices can help lead the way.

The panel, entitled Skills In Demand: A Sectoral Perspective, one of several such conversations that took place at the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum’s recent Skilled Trades Summit, aimed to do just that.

Dennis Green, senior manager of industry training for go2hr said recruiting women to the hospitality industry is not a problem, as it is in other sectors like construction.

The hospitality industry is also looking to the baby boomers to market turning their passions into jobs, such as a golf marshal or fishing guide.

In the industry’s efforts to recruit more Aboriginal Peoples, Green has found that community is a critical aspect to First Nations.

“What’s critical in terms of having success is they want training to happen in the community, but we also have to have job opportunities in those communities,” he said. “We can’t go into an Aboriginal community and train people to be cooks and then say now you have to go 200 miles away for work. We have to have a strategic approach to make sure we’re providing jobs for the communities as well.”

BuildForce Canada predicts that up to 235,000 people are going to be needed to fill positions within the construction industry, which has traditionally relied on a mobile workforce.

There are now questions as to how mobile that workforce will be in the future.

“The more important question we have to ask is whether in fact the mobile workforce we have that is now aging is still going to be interested in being mobile,” said Rosemary Sparks, BuildForce Canada executive director.

“Are the new young people coming into the industry going to be interested in working in remote areas... these are questions that we don’t know the answer to but they are going to impact our ability to (meet demands).

Serge Viola, director of asset management at Purolator, and Green both completed apprenticeships themselves.

This has helped them promote the possibilities of career progression.

“We talk about you coming in as an apprentice, you work your way up to a mechanic, a heavy truck mechanic, a team leader, a foreman, a freight manager... you can go as high as you want within a career,” said Viola.

There was concern from the audience that parents do not buy into a career in the skilled trades.

Sparks said getting the students to have hands-on experience will help change parents’ minds.

She pointed to the Toronto District School Board career exploration program, which allows students to explore different trades.

“The kids end up learning so much, it completely energizes them,” she said.

“The best way to get the message to young people is opportunities like that where they can actually touch and get on the jobsite.”

Sparks added that the enthusiasm from students also translates into acceptance from parents and increases their knowledge of opportunities that exist in the skilled trades.

While getting students to try a career in the trades in high school is good, Green pointed out that it is important to get kids thinking about career opportunities at a younger age because by about Grade 10, they already have a career plan in mind and courses picked out.

“We actually go out into Grade 3 and Grade 4 classrooms and teach kids how to grow vegetables and teach them how to cook them. They’re getting a sense of where their food comes from...there’s an opportunity there to build those skills.”

He added more work needs to be done to help students become aware of where their skills and interests lie.

Green pointed out that messaging and perception around the trades is really important.

“In France trade tickets are called Technical Baccalaureates... It’s the same language that they use for a Bachelor’s Degree. It puts it on the same level as the other programs,” he said.

“That’s something that I thought was a very innovative way because everybody’s got a Bachelor’s Degree as far as they’re concerned.”

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