THUNDER BAY -- Mining jobs are coming to Ontario’s north, and Lakehead Public Schools wants to ensure their students are ready to fill them.
Gerry Cornies, the board’s Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program co-ordinator said there’s a definite shortage of skilled workers in the region.
It’s all over the media, with reports last week emerging that nine mines nearing operational stages in Northwestern Ontario could require 13,149 new workers to get under way.
At present, there are not enough skilled trade workers living in the region to take those jobs, meaning hundreds, if not thousands, will have to be imported from elsewhere.
These are good-paying jobs, and Northwestern Ontario students should get first crack at filling them, Cornies said.
“We want to get as many students as we can interested in skilled trades and show them the opportunities are there. You don’t have to go to university, you don’t have to go to college. If you take an apprenticeship program you can end up with a high-paying job,” Cornies said.
While post-secondary school is a great fit for many students graduating from the public system, it’s not for everyone and not going to university or college shouldn’t automatically doom students to a life of poverty.
Working a trade is an honourable profession, but often convincing students and their parents – and sometimes even school guidance counsellors – isn’t easy, said Cornies, speaking during a break at the annual OYAP provincial meeting held Thursday at Fort William Historical Park.
“It’s hard sometimes, especially the parents who have an influence on the students and they don’t want them to go into the trades. But we found that students are interested in trades. They want to go into the trades. All the media is always talking about the shortage of skilled trades. They have access to the shops in schools and they find out it’s an interesting way to make a living,” he said.
John Mason, the mining sector services project manager with the Community Economic Development Commission, called the program invaluable.
OYAP allows students interested in taking a trade to start training in that trade while in Grade 11 or 12 through the co-op program, building hours toward their apprenticeship requirement at the same time.
“Students and families aren’t aware of either the opportunity or how they can maybe enter the sector if they are interested in entering the mining profession,” Mason said.
“And through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program, it allows youth to look at a variety of jobs that could take place in the mining footprint or the exploration sector. The awareness piece is really critical to get that word out about the sector.”
That message isn’t always being communicated, at least according to statistics provided by the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum.
While 69 per cent of parents say they encourage their children to consider the trades, only 28 per cent of students say they recall their parents saying it.
And, unlike many other career possibilities, there is some stability in mining, said Sarah Watts-Rynard, executive director of the CAF.
“Skilled trades are not going to get up and move to another country,” she said, addressing a conference workshop.
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