The Ontario government is making a big push to get young people to consider careers in the trades, dispatching recruiters to some 800 Ontario high schools and holding large fairs across the province to link students with jobs.
The move is an effort to stave off a looming shortage of workers in the skilled trades, fields that can pay about $100,000 a year with benefits and pensions.
Labour Minister Monte McNaughton and Education Minister Stephen Lecce are in Whitby Wednesday morning to announce details of $90 million in funding for the trades, boosting provincial spending in the area to $1.5 billion over the next four years.
“In 2018, one per cent of all students went into apprenticeships, but by 2025 one in five jobs will be in the skilled trades,” McNaughton said in an interview. “We’ve got some catching up to do.”
He said the province’s plan “is built around ending the stigma, simplifying the apprenticeship system and encouraging employers to hire apprentices,” including a pledge to provide companies with $17,000 per apprentice from under-represented groups.
“It’s really putting our money where our mouths are to diversify and recruit people into the trades,” McNaughton also said. “The intention really is to compete head-on with specialties available in Ontario.
McNaughton also said the government is aiming to bring down the average age of an apprentice to 22 from 29.Lecce noted that the province has estimated a shortfall of about 100,000 skilled workers over the next decade. He has previously said that talk of the trades will begin in elementary school, before students start making decisions on career paths.
Teachers and guidance counsellors will also be trained so they too can better promote the trades, he said.
“Our government recognizes that students need to be equipped with the skills that let them access in-demand jobs,” Lecce said in a statement.
“That is why we are providing students with access to modernized STEM education opportunities, including as part of our new Grade 9 math curriculum, and helping students enter the skilled trades by connecting them with recruiters. Doing so is key to our province’s long-term economic success and to supporting students as they prepare to enter the workforce.”