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Trade Up

A new generation of tradespeople is finding opportunity in British Columbia

A new generation of tradespeople is finding opportunity in British Columbia

The rising demand for skilled tradespeople is unprecedented in B.C.’s history. One hundred and twenty-three thousand job openings are expected in the trades industry by 2025, and with 79% of them being a direct result of retirement, employers need to fill that generation of experienced trades people with a crop of skilled workers, says Gary Herman, CEO of Industry Training Authority (ITA), a provincial government body that oversees B.C.’s skilled trades system. (ITA works closely with employers, employees, industry, labour, training providers and government to issue credentials, support apprenticeships, and more.)

Take 23-year-old Chelsea Barron for example. She admits there weren’t many young women signing up to become machinists when she began her apprenticeship. However, the fourth-year apprentice at Raute Canada Ltd., a company that manufactures machines for end-use products in the wood industry, believes this is changing. 

“When I first started my apprenticeship at another company, I was the only female,” she explains. “At Raute, there is another female machinist.”

When Barron finishes her four-year training program, she’ll graduate with a Red Seal Machinist certificate and a guaranteed job that includes a starting salary of around $40,000 a year, while experienced workers make $80,000. The skilled trades have become a much more attractive career option for both men and women, and for good reason. With higher than average pay, stable hours and a number of financial supports for trades apprentices and education costs, a career in the trades is a viable path that young people should explore.

“I was always an active, hands-on learner,” she says. “Every day is different and creative… I work on different parts for various machine engines. My job is rewarding and offers me a great lifestyle.”

Neil Black, production manager at Raute Canada Ltd. couldn’t be prouder of Barron. 

“She is such an accomplished young woman. Barron took home silver at the 2016 Skills Canada National Championships,” he notes. “At Raute, we have more than 40 shop employees and seven apprentices, across four types of production trades.”

But Barron’s story isn’t out of the ordinary for the business—Raute Canada has been hiring apprentices for well over four decades. 

“For us, apprentices represent the future of our company,” explains Black. “It is important for us to retain their skill set and knowledge; in fact, it is critical for our long-term success.”  

ITA’s Herman says people fail to remember that the trades affect nearly everything that people do every day. 

“Think of the car you drive or the airplane or SkyTrain you take—all built by tradespeople,” he says. “Additionally, nearly everything that is maintained has also been touched by the hands of skilled tradespeople.”

Herman says people shouldn’t think of apprenticeships as a one-off job opportunity, but rather training that opens the door to all kinds of attractive career options. 

“The magnitude of the demand from succession is huge,” stresses Herman. “These aren’t just jobs, these are well-paying careers, where the sky is the limit in terms of how far someone wants to go.” 

Young people looking for a rewarding and challenging career will find it in the trades. It is a worthwhile choice that offers a variety of career avenues, as well as stability, whether one decides to stay in British Columbia or move anywhere across Canada.