Conestoga news

March 12, 2023 11:57 AM

TradeUcation offers insight into skilled trades careers

On March 2, Conestoga’s School of Trades & Apprenticeship welcomed 150 secondary school guidance counsellors, educators and administrators as well as representatives from OCAS to the Cambridge - Reuter Drive campus for TradeUcation. The event offered a full day of hands-on workshops and presentations to gain a better understanding of skilled trades and apprenticeship pathways to support secondary students with questions about possible career opportunities.  

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A panel of tradespeople shared their experience in skilled trades at the college’s TradeUcation event on March 2. L-R: Moderator Suzanne Moyer, dean, School of Trades & Apprenticeship; Randy Smith; Alex Kis; Grant Schwartz; and Casey Gallivan.

Participants heard from Conestoga administration, faculty, students, graduates and industry partners about skilled trades careers and available programming and apprenticeships at the college. They also had the opportunity to participate in hands-on activities led by faculty in carpentry, CNC machining, electrical, masonry, plumbing, robotics, welding, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).

As part of the event, participants also heard from a panel of tradespeople about their experiences and industries. Panelists included Randy Smith, senior recruitment analyst, Human Resources, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada; Alex Kis, licensed truck and coach technician, part-time Conestoga faculty and 2016 Conestoga Truck and Coach Technician graduate; Grant Schwartz, welding and custom fabrication technician, owner of Schwartz Welding, 1994 graduate of the Welding/Fitting apprenticeship program through Conestoga, and a 2017 Conestoga Alumni of Distinction recipient; and Casey Gallivan, a student in Conestoga’s Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) General Carpenter Pre-apprenticeship program.

“It was actually my auto teacher in high school who encouraged me to try the trades. It took me a while to jump into that,” said Kis, who also shared that she pursued a different career after high school before joining a pre-apprenticeship program at Conestoga. “I wish I had known about skilled trades sooner. It wasn’t until I was 21 that I joined the college. It was eye-opening, knowing that there were so many opportunities that fit my personality better.”

A growing skills gap has emerged as the demand to keep pace with population growth and changing workforce demographics increases. Reports indicate more than 700,000 skilled tradespeople are set to retire by 2028. Canada needs more than 167,000 new apprentices alone to keep pace.

“Skilled trades open doors. You can make your own path: you can work for a company like Toyota or you can open your own shop, and it is portable. You can go anywhere and they are not going away,” Smith shared as advice for participants when talking to students about skilled trades. “They are not a career that is going to disappear someday. It is a needed thing, and you can make it what you want. It has unlimited opportunities.”

TradeUcation was hosted with support from the Canerector Foundation. The foundation also supports Conestoga students through a multi-year skilled trades scholarship program to remove financial barriers for students pursuing their education. Scholarship recipients (Canerector Scholars) act as mentors and ambassadors for skilled trades, continuing to build capacity and strength needed in the trade sector locally and beyond.

Conestoga is a provincial leader in the delivery of trades and apprenticeship training to serve industry needs and growing communities. 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. Visit the School of Trades & Apprenticeship for more information.