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Ontario commits $43M to attract youth to skilled trades amid workforce shortage

 Minister of labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton.
Minister of labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

The Minister of labour, Training and Skills Development was in London, Ont., Thursday to announced a $43-million investment to get youth involved in the skilled trades.

Minister Monte McNaughton was joined by Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, and Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues Jill Dunlop to talk about how the funding will give young people more exposure to the trades and increase awareness about that choosing that career path.

“There is a stigma against them (the trades), but the truth is they offer great jobs,” McNaughton said.

“Careers in the trades are well paid, and many earn six figures.”

McNaughton spoke about the high demand for jobs in the skilled trades, a demand he said is only going to grow as the Ontario economy recovers from the novel coronavirus.

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Read more: $1.49M in provincial skills training funding announced for London, Ont.

“Where you are helping build a home people will live in, a bridge that brings people together, helping keep the lights on across Ontario when you work in the skilled trades your work matters,” McNaughton.

The investment to attract and train youth in trades includes $5 million towards Skills Ontario to increase awareness of the trades among elementary school students.

Of the money, $17 million will also be invested into the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) to send representatives to high schools to teach students about the opportunity to learn about the skilled trades, and/apprenticeships.

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Read more: Ontario invests nearly $1M in London training programs to tackle shortage in skilled trades

The largest amount of money, $21 million, will allow students and graduates to explore a variety of jobs in the skilled trades through the Pre-Apprenticeship Training program.

“These jobs played an essential role keeping the provincial economy running, and they pay well,” Lecce said.

He talked about how the province is working to modernize the curriculum like adding financial literacy and coding to get kids interested in the skilled trades at a younger age. The funding will work on educating kids about the trades from Grade 1 through Grade 12.

Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario announces financial support, training to skilled trade apprentices
Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario announces financial support, training to skilled trade apprentices

Ontario is also appointing three Youth Advisors to engage with youth, educators, businesses, parents and other key partners, and the Minister of Labour Training and Skills Development on how to reduce stigma and make the trades a viable first choice for young people. The position will be a paid role.

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Read more: Women encouraged to pursue career in skilled trades

Another key component of the funding is to get more girls and women interested in the skilled trades.

Women make up 40 per cent of the labour market but only four per cent of all skilled trades.

“We are working to steer more women towards sectors with well-paid jobs that then help our province meet critical labour shortages and fuels economic growth,” Dunlop said.

She said that starting to teach girls about the skilled trades at a young age will help more girls start thinking about them as an option moving forward.

“For women, this means breaking down barriers to entry and fostering retention into what are still male-dominated sectors.”

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