• Geoff Burke

What Is The Biggest Issue We Face In The Trades?

With schools opening in the coming weeks, many of you will undoubtedly have your kids coming to you with one of two statements:

1. I want to be ________ when I grow up!


2. I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do when I grow up!

Statement #2 is quite common, as many of you know (and probably still feel yourselves sometimes). The fact of the matter is, many of us will be pushing our kids, or were pushed into formal higher education ourselves (myself included), to study something that may or may not help to find meaningful employment one day. The commoditization of a university degree is lessening it’s value, leaving thousands of highly educated people without work once they graduate.

As you may have guessed, today I’m going to advocate for all of you to open the doors to the skilled trades as a viable career option. In Ontario alone, we are currently facing a shortage of 190,000 skilled trade workers, with that number expected to grow to 560,000 by 2030. The average age of a tradesperson is in their 50’s and they are getting tired! Years of hard work (and good pay) lead many tradespeople to retire before the more standard age of 65. Without younger people to fill their shoes, that shortage can only grow.

As we mentioned above, the ability of a university graduate to find a job is getting more and more difficult. This is not the case in the trades. Not only can you find meaningful work, but you are paid for your training! For example, unionized plumbing apprentices in Toronto work off of a pay structure that starts at 40% of a licenced plumber’s wage and works it’s way up each year to 85% of that wage, before taking the licencing exam. Once licenced, a unionized plumber’s pay is nearly $50 per hour, and includes all of the benefits you would see in a corporate work structure. In just 5 years, that 22 year old who came into the trades straight out of high school would have a steady, $100,000/year job. Not too bad! Of course, if you didn’t want to go the Union route, you can also start your own business, or work for a smaller company. The options are out there.

Lastly, making up only 4% of skilled workers, women entering the trades may help to fill the gap. Because of the very prevalent labour shortage, many industries have broken the stereotype and realized that they need to hire a much more diverse workforce. Women are now, more than ever, being heavily recruited into skilled trade positions, and unsurprisingly, succeeding! This trend will continue to grow, as long as there are enough women willing to fill these much needed roles.

At the end of the day, it is in all of our best interests to fill the labour shortage in the trades. Labour shortages will drive up prices at a consumer level, as demand grows. Many business owners turn down work (myself included), as we can’t find qualified individuals to fill the demand.

So, the next time your daughter or son comes to you (or you nag them) about what they want to do with their lives, have this in the forefront of your mind. A career in the trades is rewarding, well payed, and desperately in demand!