On June 2, the Conestoga community gathered to celebrate the twelfth annual Trades & Apprenticeship Awards. The event recognized outstanding student achievement in the motive power, construction and industrial trades.
Traditionally held in person, the event was adapted this year for a virtual format after a hiatus in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 200 awards valued at a combined $320,000 were presented. In his opening remarks, Conestoga President John Tibbits thanked industry partners and donors for their support, which has resulted in more than $1.9 million in awards for skilled trades students since the event's inception in 2010.
New to the honours this year was the Clarice Ward Leaders in Skilled Trades Award, presented to apprentices graduating from a Conestoga construction trades program with demonstrated leadership and dedication in the classroom. A recipient of the college's 2018 Alumni of Distinction Award, Ward is both a 2007 graduate of the Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) Pre-apprenticeship program and a 2011 graduate of the General Carpenter Apprenticeship program. As a project manager of specialty contracts at Melloul-Blamey Construction Inc., she is the first woman to transition from tradesperson to construction management in the company's history. A speaker, mentor and champion of women in non-traditional roles, Ward has influenced thousands to consider skilled trades opportunities. The scholarship was established in honour of Ward's 2019 Premier's Award.
In her keynote address, Ward encouraged students as the future of the industry to take pride in the trades, work with meaning and show leadership, stressing the crucial role they have to help continue to fill the demand for skilled trades workers.
"This pandemic has underscored how essential skilled trades workers are and the critical role they play in our economy," said Ward. "You are a part of something very important and very big."
The province faces a critical shortage of workers with skills employers need to support industry competitiveness and growth. Over the last decade, skilled trades positions have consistently ranked as the most difficult roles to fill, both locally and across the country. According to BuildForce Canada, the construction sector in Ontario alone will require over 110,000 new construction and maintenance workers by 2030.
To continue to help address Ontario's skilled labour shortage, Conestoga plans to open a comprehensive skilled trades campus in fall 2022. Located in Cambridge, the 330,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility will be home to the college's School of Trades & Apprenticeship and include modern shops and labs designed specifically to deliver skilled trades education and training. The campus will be instrumental in the college's efforts to attract more students to trades-based careers.
Conestoga is a provincial leader in the delivery of trades and apprenticeship training to serve industry needs and the growing community. Comprehensive programming includes a wide range of programs that provide pathways to employment in skilled trades careers as well as pre-apprenticeship training and in-school training for apprentices.
For more information, visit the School of Trades & Apprenticeship.