Heads-up to metrosexuals everywhere: Put away your salmon-pink dress shirt and break out the plaid flannel. The trades are making a comeback.

It’s a trend that’s being driven by employers across the country who are facing a shortage in skilled tradeworkers and scrambling to hire graduates who don’t mind strapping on some steel-toed boots and getting their hands dirty.


“We’ve had to implement new degree programs because there is such demand,” says Alexis Trejgo of George Brown, where trades programs have been offered for over 40 years.

Trejgo is the industry and events manager for the school’s Centre for Construction and Engineering Technologies, but also runs the job board for those programs. She notes that many of the school’s former pupils are ready for retirement, so it’s new grads are in high demand.

“Every day I have at least 10 to 15 calls from employers from each sector looking for students,” she says. “We get on average 30 to 35 postings a week.”

Trejgo cites the construction management co-op program as an example of a trades program that George Brown has recently started up because of industry demand. (The course is offered in partnership with the provincial government.)

“Because there’s such a boom they’re already looking for project managers, giving our students the opportunity to get out there right away.”

Alan Reid, manager of skilled trades and apprenticeships at Sheridan, says that while tool-and-die, millwright and electrician courses have always been popular, computerized mechanical control (CNC) is taking on more significance.

“CNC is machining, but the computer, rather than an individual, drives the machine,” explains Reid. Sheridan is in the process of expanding its continuing education department to accomodate the growing demand for programs like CNC.

As demand for skilled tradeworkers increases, many schools are offering programs specifically for women to encourage them to pursue a trade career.

The Centre for Skills Development and Training, based in Burlington, Ont., began offering a women-only program about 10 years ago.

Supported by the Ontario Women’s Directorate, the program in enhanced general carpentry has about 20 students per class. With 70 per cent of the students having no prior experience, the women’s-only program offers a great advantage.

“They can ask questions and try things without being embarrassed in front of guys,” says Nancy Moore, senior manager of employment and skilled trades.

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