'We are opening up doors and creating new pathways to good jobs in STEM and the skilled trades'
Ontario is looking to ensure that its young residents are job-ready when they get out of high school.
Starting with students entering Grade 9 in September 2024, all students will now be required to earn a Grade 9 or 10 Technological Education credit as part of their Ontario Secondary School Diploma.
"By requiring students to take at least one Technological Education credit in high school, we are opening up doors and creating new pathways to good jobs in STEM and the skilled trades,” says Stephen Lecce, minister of education. “All students will benefit from a greater emphasis on hands-on learning experiences and technical skills in the classroom so they can graduate with a competitive advantage in this country."
The new requirement means a student may be introduced to programming learning in Grade 9, explore the apprenticeship pathway further and ultimately decide to become an aerospace manufacturing technician, says the government.
There are more than 100,000 unfilled skilled trades jobs in the province right now, and by 2026, roughly one in five job openings in Ontario will be in skilled trades-related fields.
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, 3M Canada previously reported.
The Technological Education curriculum covers a broad range of sectors, including construction, transportation, manufacturing, computer technology, hospitality and communication.
Ontario hopes that with the new rule, the representation of women in the trades will increase.
Currently in Ontario, men make up more than 70 per cent of workers in trades-related occupations. And while almost 39 per cent of Ontario secondary school students were enrolled in a Technological Education course in 2020-21, nearly 63 per cent were male students.
Nearly nine in 10 (87 per cent) of Canadians agree it's important to increase diversity and inclusion in STEM jobs, according to a previous report.
Students who enrol in a co-op program generally enjoy advantages over their non-participant peers, but those who also earn degrees in STEM programs benefit more than those who take up courses in the arts, according to a previous study from C.D. Howe Institute.
Welcome development for skilled trades
Several stakeholders welcomed the development in Ontario.
The General Contractors’ Association of Toronto (GCAT), for one, “strongly supports revitalizing the graduation requirement,” says Jim Vlahos, the associations’ executive director.
“The skilled trades offer in-demand, lucrative and rewarding careers and we believe the mandatory credit will expose students to opportunities they would not have known of otherwise. GCAT applauds the work this government continues to do to address our labour shortage while promoting careers in construction, including the skilled trades and to provide a healthy perception of the construction industry to help make an informed career decision."
“This change will result in more students being introduced to skilled trades and technology, which will help to address our skills shortages and move more people to fulfilling and rewarding careers,” says Ian Howcroft, CEO of Skills Ontario.
Attracting women to skilled trades will go a long way, says Harseshaj Dhami, founder of tech education platform Codespire.
“Tech is the future, and it’s high time we ensure that all of Ontario’s youth – regardless of race, gender or social class – are given the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow.”