How to break into construction trades in Ontario

Construction industry is working to get rid of stigma as pensions accelerate

Unfortunately, for young people trying to decide on a future career path, or others seeking a career switch, the construction industry is still not high on the list of options in Ontario.

But with a constant demand for workers that will only grow with approaching retirement, today’s trade workers are trying to change that story.

A 2020 Buildforce study shows that more than 257,000 construction workers are expected to retire by 2029, while the industry is only expected to grow by just over 50,000 employees. Anticipating a job shortage, Ontario recently announced that more than $1 million would go to the Christian Labor Association of Canada to cover the costs of 300 construction workers seeking online training for leadership positions.

Dale McGavin, Director of Training at UA Local 67, which represents the plumbing, steam fitting and welding trades, says the industry is always booming. “There is always a shortage and we are always looking for people.”

The key to filling that gap in the industry is not just finding agencies to fill the field, he continues, but finding people with the “right mindset” about the job and who understand it’s a real career path. .

“People see the profession as a fallback, and there’s a stigma that it’s not an academic field,” he says.

There is intensive post-secondary training, even within apprenticeships for these professions, and the industry requires a different kind of learning, such as learning the language needed to understand blueprints.

McGavin says it’s common for people with an academic background to enter the profession when they realize they have a passion for it. “For some, the ultimate goal is not to be a qualified craftsman; they move on, they get into management, they go into estimates,” he says. “People can set up their own business.”

Why become a trade worker?

Rachel Hasketh, who now works as an apprentice plumber after trying a number of different professions through a pre-intern through UA Local 67, worked as an early childhood educator before switching careers.

She says the stigma surrounding the profession originally prevented her from considering that career path, acknowledging it’s something she never thought she could do. But the pre-internship program was specifically aimed at getting more women into the profession, so she felt more encouraged to give it a try. “It was just so different from anything I’d ever done before,” she says. “I loved it. It helped fulfill that need to learn.”

Hasketh enjoys the practicality of plumbing because plumbing problems are a “constant” so there is always something new to learn. “I love how every day can be different and how much problem-solving and adaptability it takes to get through a day or even a task. It definitely keeps it interesting,” she says.

Trading is a “humble” profession, she adds, because of the challenge of doing something new every day.

“You realize how much you don’t know, and it’s that constant opportunity to learn that I love,” she says.

What are the disadvantages?

Hasketh says that while things are changing, it’s still hard to be one of the few women on the workforce. “I’ve been the only woman on the job site before and that’s a challenge,” she explains.

Only about three percent of construction workers on site in Ontario are women. “It’s changing,” Hasketh says. “We are no longer pioneers, all those women have been working in the field.”

McGavin adds that there is a misconception about safety issues when it comes to job sites for construction companies, but he says unions are committed to rigorous employee training.

“People joke about how many safety guidelines they have to do, but it’s so ingrained in you at that point that when you’re at home with your kids, you can really see what’s going to happen before it happens, because that safety awareness becomes part of the culture and part of who you are,” he explains.

How Do I Become a Trade Worker in Ontario?

For those interested in working in the construction industry, there are options to get started in the field even during high school. Students can start an internship or co-op if they are at least 16 years old in Ontario. You can also take free pre-apprenticeship courses if you’re in the last two years of high school, about to enter college or university, or even if you’re out of school at all.

Once you have completed your internship, you can proceed to obtain your qualification certificate and other qualifications, depending on the profession. Hasketh says there are extensive financial support options and incentives for people who want to pursue a trade, so you can be virtually debt-free by the time you finish your education. Entry level positions can start at around $40,000, with plenty of room for advancement.

Hasketh says women — or anyone who feels this industry isn’t marketed to them — should give the trade a try if they’re even the least bit interested.

“If you happen to have the chance to do a pre-internship program, or anything else that gets you involved, even if it’s learning how to use power tools, these are the kinds of things that feel like they keep you from feeling like you can’t do it, just go for it. It’s not as overwhelming as it seems,” she says.

Where to Study to Become a Construction Worker in Ontario

Algonquin College (Ottawa) Electrical Technician, $9,736.84 total, Mechanical Plumbing Certificate, totaling $3,685.72.

Canadian College (North Bay) Sanitary Mechanical Engineering Certificate, totaling $3,628.24.

College Boreal (Sudbury) Sanitary Techniques Certificate, $5,874.81 total.

Conestoga College (Kitchenmaker) Certificate building techniques, $1,972.95 total.

Durham College (Oshawa) Mechanical Engineering Plumbing Certificate, total $3,806.82.

Fanshawe College (London) Sanitary Techniques Certificate, $3,503.32 total.

Fleming College (Peterborough) Mechanical Engineering Plumbing Certificate, total $4,942.24.

George Brown College, Toronto Sanitary Techniques Certificate, $5,203 total.

Georgian College (Middle Country), Sanitary Techniques Certificate, $3,694.14 total.

Humber College (Toronto) Sanitary Techniques Certificate, totaling $4,335.84. health

Mohawk College (Hamilton) Plumbing Construction Technique Certificate, $4,201.21.

Sheridan College (Brampton) Sanitary Mechanical Engineering Certificate, totaling $4,611.

St Clair College (Windsor) Sanitary Techniques Certificate, totaling $4,502.62.

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