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Young people with skills in, and passion for, the trades will always be in demand
I feel like a broken record with how much I say this, but I’m going to continue to shout it out: Canada is facing a skilled trades shortage. When our current generation of plumbers, welders, carpenters and more retire, we don’t have enough young people to replace them. This is a real problem.
The trades build our roads, hospitals, schools, and homes — and we need passionate, talented people in these roles. While I don’t think you’re ever too old to pick up a career in the trades if that’s where your passion lies, I do think that as parents, we should start the conversation about the skilled trades with our kids when they’re young. Ideally, when they’re in elementary school.
It starts at home
This is how it started for me. I watched my dad doing work around our house. He was a plumber, but in our home, he was a jack-of-all-trades, working on almost everything. To me, this guy was Superman. And I wanted to be like him.
I can’t count the number of home projects we tackled together. By putting a hammer into my hands, he was getting me started on the path that would decide my entire life. But at the time, I was just making memories with my dad. Don’t count out experiences like this with your children.
This is something I passed down to my own kids. When my son was young, I gave him a set of toy tools, but he soon tossed them aside for a video game controller. It wasn’t until I brought him onto my job site with me to work and make some money; then he started to get that hands-on experience, and it sparked that passion in him. Now he’s a contractor and working with me every day.
No matter what your skill level is, get your kids involved around the house when you’re building. Even if it’s something small like a bookshelf or barbecue, put the tools in their hands, let them see how it all goes together and teach them that everything doesn’t come prefabricated in a box.
Where else can they get involved?
My dad was a pro, so I naturally grew up around handy people developing these skills. This is something I then passed down to my own kids. But if you’re not even a casual DIYer, how can your kids get hands-on experience?
I was just reading about an after-school carpentry program for kids aged nine to 13, which gives them a taste of the trades — in the hopes that it will help them see woodworking as a potential career down the line. At the end of the program, they’ll even get to take home a Muskoka chair that they built all on their own. How cool is that?
What I love about this program is that it shows you that these kids aren’t too young to try a trade out. If they don’t have the option of taking shop classes in high school, how else will they get exposed to all the potential careers out there?
There are also great nationwide programs like Skills Canada which educate students about all kinds of trades (from pipe fitting to baking), and helps create the future leaders in those fields. Not only that, they help build respect for these trades. It’s not about widening a divide between “blue collar” and “white collar.” It’s about respecting that each profession requires a set of extremely valuable skills. We need doctors and nurses to treat our sick, but who builds the hospitals where they work? Tradespeople do. At the end of the day, all of these professions leave the world a little better off.
I don’t think a career in the trades is for the faint of heart, and it’s certainly not for everybody. I’m worried about kids who do have the talent and passion for it, who are being detoured to other job prospects that are seen as more “safe.” There’s this notion that the trades are a fallback career, but nothing could be further than the truth. It takes time, dedication and passion, but believe me, if you’re a talented contractor, I don’t think you’ll be hurting for work.
Mike has been making it right for homeowners for over 15 years on television. To learn more, visit makeitright.ca
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