Four hundred secondary school students are busy trying out trades May 15 and 16 as part of a major skilled trades expo at the Robbert Hartog Midland Campus of Georgian College. Each student gains introductory, hands-on experience in two trades during the interactive workshops.
The event is aimed at encouraging high school students to pursue a postsecondary education in the high-demand skilled trades programs taught at the Midland Campus.
The expo comes at a crucial time for the Ontario and Canadian economies. Both the federal and Ontario governments are currently focusing on skilled trades – and on the troubling gap between vacant jobs and qualified people to fill them.
Government estimates suggest that more than 260,000 job vacancies currently exist without qualified Canadian workers to fill them. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business reports that businesses facing labour shortages will need six times as many college graduates as university graduates in the future.
“The Skilled Trades Expo is a major part of our Georgian College strategy to engage students in the skilled trades before they even leave high school,” says Georgian College President and CEO MaryLynn West-Moynes. “Georgian is committed to addressing these skills shortages and helping to develop a strong, innovative and more efficient labour market – one that will meet the needs of employers and our graduates.
“In the most recent semester, the Midland Campus had its largest enrolment ever – more than 1,000 students studying full- and part-time, in apprenticeships and in contract training provided by Georgian College to industry.”
Mac Greaves sees the skills crunch first-hand every day in his position as Associate Dean, Community and Government Programs. He says most Georgian College trades graduates are snapped up by employers.
“Today’s contractors are looking for potential hires who have trades-related experience and can hit the ground running. Successful graduates of our programs can demonstrate to employers that they have knowledge, experience and dedication, making them a desirable hire for apprenticeship opportunities,” Greaves said.
At the expo, students from 32 high schools across Simcoe County and Muskoka each pick two interactive workshops. They work in teams and, under the guidance of Georgian College instructors, solve assigned problems related to each skilled trade they choose.
Students gain true hands-on experience. In one workshop, participants build trusses from quarter-inch lumber. Their projects are then subjected to pressure in a press to determine which lasts the longest before breaking. In the electrical workshop, students learn how to wire a three-way switch. The circuit lights up if they have done their work successfully.
The skilled trades centre at the Midland Campus offers 39,000 square feet of dedicated shop space, giving many opportunities for hands-on learning experience in a variety of skilled trades. These include plumbing, small engines, welding, marine engines, electrical, solar, carpentry, gas fitting, power engineering and heating, refrigeration and air conditioning. The Midland Campus is also home to the Victor and Hazel Carpenter Boating Centre of Excellence, providing premier education for Ontario’s boating industry. Selected skills education is also offered in state-of-the-art facilities at the Barrie and Owen Sound campuses.