Working with your hands – Metro US

Working with your hands

Here’s a question: Which career averages a six-figure salary while guaranteeing employers across the country will climb over each other to hire you?

If you answered skilled trades, pat yourself on the back for getting something right that most Canadians tends to get wrong.

Despite many common misconceptions, careers in the skilled trades for electricians, welders, crane operators and scores of other trades people are lucrative, in demand and provide some of the steadiest and most satisfying employment available.

While the recent recession has impacted all levels of industry throughout the country, George Gritziotis, executive director of the Construction Sector Council, says the construction industry managed more of a soft landing as a result of almost $10 billion in government stimulus money and an unprecedented construction boom from 1996-2008, which saw employment hit a record of 1.2 million workers Canada-wide.

“Parts of the country went from overheated and super busy down to just being busy, so the downturn for us wasn’t as dramatic as it could have been,” he said.

Careers in the skilled trades usually begin with an apprenticeship that lasts five years, followed by graduation to journeyman status for full employment prospects. The ongoing shortage of skilled-trade workers across Canada is so pronounced, Gritziotis says, that before the current recession employers were hiring students before they had even finished their full apprenticeships.

With a shift from the private sector towards government-funded building construction projects such as roads, bridges, hospitals and schools, careers in skilled trades are likely to enjoy a strong foundation.

“For 2010 we’re seeing a shift from private sector construction towards more in the public sector and that is good news if you’re somebody coming into the industry because many of those public sector projects are long-term projects,” Gritziotis said.

Despite the positive employment prospects for skilled-trades careers however, the future looks troubling for employers because Gritziotis says fewer people are going into the skilled trades than are retiring every year.

Skills Canada polls have shown that 60 per cent of young people say their parents have not encouraged them to consider a career in trades.

“The thing that doesn’t change is demographics. How many parents look at a career in construction or trades as being a career that continues? The truth is it’s not just a job to save up money to go into something else. There is a real career and a career path out there,” he said.

A recent Construction Sector Council study estimates roughly 20 per cent of skilled-trades workers will retire by 2017 leading to a need for 300,000 new workers to fill the needs of the industry within that same time period.

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