3 in 4 Canadians say they’d never pursue career in skilled trades

'The shortage of skilled professionals is daunting – misconceptions and lack of awareness make it difficult to fill the gaps'

3 in 4 Canadians say they’d never pursue career in skilled trades

There could be even worse labour shortages in the skilled trades in Canada, judging by a recent survey.

While 96 per cent of Canadians agree that the country's workforce needs more skilled trades workers, 76 per cent say they would never pursue a skilled trade for themselves, finds 3M Canada.

This is the case even though Canadians think highly of skilled trades and the professionals who work in them.

"The shortage of skilled professionals in Canada is daunting – misconceptions and lack of awareness surrounding these careers make it difficult to fill the gaps, but it is important now more than ever that we encourage and support Ontarians pursuing these fields," says Ian Howcroft, CEO of Skills Ontario.

Canada posted a record-high job vacancy at the start of March with employers seeking to fill more than one million positions, according to a report from Statistics Canada. And more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of employers say they are having a hard time hiring people with the skill sets they need to grow, according to a previous report from KPMG.

Great opportunities

Canadians think that the skilled trades offer a lot of fruitful opportunities, finds 3M’s survey of 1,000 adult respondents across the following 17 countries: Canada, the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Poland, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, China, India, UAE, and Australia.

More than nine in 10 (92 per cent) believe there is a lot of opportunity in skilled trades, and 91 per cent trust vocational or trade schools to give them the education needed to have a successful career.

More than eight in 10 (81 per cent) also believe they would earn as much money in a skilled trade as they would in a career that requires a degree from a traditional four-year university/college.

So why are Canadians hesitant to pursue careers in the skilled trades? They have other passions for their career, say 47 per cent of those who did not go into the skilled trades.

"Getting Canada's youth excited about skilled trades will be critical to ensuring a robust and healthy economy as we emerge from the impact of the global pandemic," says Terry Bowman, manufacturing and supply chain Leader at 3M Canada. "It is imperative [that] Canadian organizations provide equitable access to STEM education to passionate young Canadians interested in pursuing a skilled trade.”

Currently, Alberta is modernizing its skilled trades framework with the proclamation of the Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Education Act. Earlier this year, Ontario launched Skilled Trades Ontario, which will promote and market the trades, develop the latest training and curriculum standards and provide a streamlined user-friendly experience for tradespeople.

Here are four ways employers can make skilled trades more appealing to the Gen Z workers, according to Mark Perna, founder and CEO of consulting firm TFS in Forbes:

  • Employers need to inform young workers, their parents, friends, classmates and teachers about the value of skilled trade careers.
  • Employers need to let young people know about the significant financial incentives in pursuing a career in the skilled trades.
  • Employers should partner with schools to let young people get their hands dirty by experiencing skilled trade careers firsthand in high school and even earlier.
  • Employers need to target messaging to all students (and parents), but especially to young women to increase awareness of the skilled trades as a desirable career choice.

Nearly half (47 per cent) of respondents believe that students would be more inspired to pursue STEM careers if we position science as a platform to make the world better, according to a previous 3M Canada report.

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