Conestoga news

February 5, 2024 7:01 AM

Try-A-Trade program gives students hands-on experience in the trades

People interested in trying their hand at the art of glazing can apply for the tuition-free Try-A-Trade program hosted by Conestoga.

Try-A-Trade windows.jpg
An upcoming Try-A-Trade program at Conestoga gives people hands-on experience as an architectural glass and metal technician.

The college’s School of Trades & Apprenticeship has run five Try-A-Trade courses this school year, as part of a pilot funded through the federal Skills for Success program.

They’re a unique opportunity for people already in the workforce but considering a career change to try a trade in a condensed, four-week program where they learn basic hands-on skills from a tradesperson. Tuition, course materials, tools, and work boots are included.

“This has been really successful,” said Rachel Banham, program manager in the School of Trades & Apprenticeship and lead in developing Try-A-Trade. “We honestly didn’t know if we’d get much interest and we’ve had way more applicants than spots every time.”

The last one being offered is Architectural Glass & Metal Technician in March at the Brantford campus, where people will learn the skills needed to transform windows, skylights and display cases into works of art. Only 15 spots are available and it’s expected there will again be many applicants.

Try-A-Trade had incredible industry support, and the glass and metal technician program was prompted by industry requests given the extreme shortage of workers trained in this field.

Skilled tradespeople in general are in short supply in Ontario, making it a career choice with lots of opportunities. One in five new jobs over the next five years will be trades-related and Ontario faces a shortage of 190,000 skilled workers, projected to reach 560,000 by 2030.

In Try-A-Trade, students learn how to prepare to start a career in the trades, as well as learn related math, trade concepts, safety, job search strategies, and career exploration. Other programs covered carpentry and masonry; welding, machining and electrical; motor power trades; and cabinet making.

Try-A-Trade changed Kate Cooper’s direction in life.

“Being able to take part in the Try-A-Trade: Cabinetmaking course has been an amazing jumping off point for my new career path,” Cooper said.

A visit to the Cambridge - Reuter Drive campus was a great introduction to the range of trades offered at Conestoga - and opened Cooper’s eyes to all the options. 

“At the time, I had no idea what I wanted to do, only that I needed a fresh start. Since taking the Try-A-Trade program, I have become a full-time student in the Electro Mechanical and Automation Maintenance program and absolutely loving it! I plan to move forward with the trades and will be applying for apprenticeships for millwright and possibly electrician in the future.”

Andrew Alton also discovered a new path, and now he’s a student in the Electrical Techniques program at the Brantford campus.

“The Try-A-Trade program allowed me to explore different possible career avenues and meet like-minded people. Upon completing Try-A-Trade, I discovered that I really enjoyed doing electrical work and now I'm going to school for it and I love it.”

Nicole Skanes was unhappy in her current job and signed up for the program that explored electrical, machining and welding. Thinking she was most interested in becoming an electrician, Skanes was surprised to find it was machining that really appealed to her.

“The staff and instructors were so very supportive to me during my exploration. They were able to see my potential and helped to support me as I hit the ground running on my new career path. I was able to gain resume writing help and interview tips as well as references from the staff that I leveraged to land a position with Linamar as a machinist apprentice,” Skanes said.

“Since I have started my position, I have been so much happier in my life. I want to go to work and learn every day. I am learning so much and I credit the Try-A-Trade program for getting me to where I am today … Try-A-Trade was literally life changing for me.”

The program was well received, and Banham is hopeful the funding will be extended or there will be another source to continue offering Try-A-Trade. Some students went on to register for related programs to continue their learning after finding a trade that’s a good fit.

The first step in the application process is to attend an information session, which are being held in Brantford on February 7, 13 and 20 at 3 p.m.

To attend, complete the registration form. The program is for Canadian citizens and permanent residents. For more information, email

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 post-secondary trades 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.