Trade schools abound in Toronto; the only question is what career goals do you want to pursue?

The Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities lists more than 200 schools in Toronto alone, meaning that given an appropriate investment in time and resources, you can usually find a school that caters to your next career choice.

For students beginning studies at a trade or vocational school, expect to work hard. Most programs require around 1,000 hours of training, which breaks down to about 20-25 hours of instructional contact every week. Programs tend to be very hands-on, with many skilled trades tending to split learning time at a ratio of roughly 20 per cent in-class time versus 80 per cent direct work experience.

Don Thibert, president of the Ontario Association of Career Colleges, says currently, skilled trades are seeing more interest among students. He says unskilled positions, such as those in office administrative jobs or health and beauty, have been hit hard by the recession while jobs in skilled trades have held up better.

Like in most economic downturns, Thibert says it’s no surprise people turn to steady, established careers with perceived guaranteed futures.

On the other hand, Andrea Garson, vice-president of human resources at job listings site Workopolis. com, says job listings in skilled trades have dropped just like in other fields. However, she suggests a lack of young people currently entering skilled trades will inevitably lead to high demand in the long term.

“The average age of skilled trades workers is climbing; there aren’t enough young people replacing them, so in the long term, we’re going to have a shortage regardless of what the economic situation is,” Garson said.

Case in point: George Gritziotis, executive director of the Construction Sector Council, says 170,000 skilled construction trades workers in Canada are expected to retire by 2017 and another 135,000 more workers will be in demand by then, highlighting the fact that despite the tough job market now, a shortage of skilled trade labour is on the horizon.

As for which careers are staying hot, Gritziotis said construction estimators, heavy equipment operators and iron workers top employers’ lists, while Thibert named accountants and health-care workers such as personal support staff as being in high demand despite the tough economy.

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