News of the centre came during an announcement on Friday by Ontario labour minister and Lambton–Kent–Middlesex PC MPP Monte McNaughton, who was joined by Strathroy-Caradoc’s mayor, Joanne Vanderheyden, and its CAO, Fred Tranquilli.
The aim of the training centre, set to open later this year, is to provide elementary and secondary school students access to the technology and training they need to begin a career in the well-paid skilled trades, McNaughton said.
“Through this project, students will get hands-on experience with state of the art equipment, from robotics equipment to 3D printers, to a welding booth with a full suite of accessories,” he said.
“Today’s announcement builds on our plan to introduce the skilled trades to students starting in Grade 1, and sending recruiters into every single high school to compete head-on with university recruiters and host boot camps where students can sign up as apprentices.”
McNaughton stressed that in order for the province to “build back a stronger Ontario that works for everyone,” Ontario needs a workforce of young skilled tradespeople, saying it’s “crucial to our success.” Nearly one in three journeypersons in Ontario is aged 55 or older, according to data from 2016.
“Tradespeople build our hospitals, like our brand new hospital in Wallaceburg; the cars we drive, like the new automotive plants and lines coming to Ingersoll and Windsor; the schools where our kids learn, like the brand new kindergarten to Grade 12 school in Forest… They’re building hundreds of new homes in Parkhill and Ailsa Craig,” he said.
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More than 100,000 new construction workers will be needed over the next decade, he added.
The new centre will align with the city’s growing junior trades program and its 2020-29 strategic plan, to establish a post-secondary education and training presence, said Vanderheyden.
“This partnership is an incredible opportunity to give students and apprentices access to the high-quality training they need to kick off a career in the trades, and close to home,” she said in a statement.
Friday’s announcement was made at Strathroy District Collegiate Institute (SDCI). The province says the new centre is being launched in partnership with the Thames Valley District School Board, London District Catholic School Board, Lambton College, and the Technical Training Group, and will be part of the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program.
Also on hand for the announcement was SDCI student Mackenzie McDonald, who enrolled in the school’s automotive tech course, and is currently working at a local dealership as part of the apprenticeship program.
“Being involved in that program has opened my eyes to all the opportunities that skilled trades have for me in the future,” McDonald said.
“Working in skilled trades as a youth apprentice has taught me how to have a good work ethic, not be afraid of a challenge, and that there’s all kinds of money to be made.”
Funding for the centre is coming from the province’s Skills Development Fund, and ministry officials say the new initiative will help link local employers to participants under one roof.
“All too often, young people hear that their only option to be successful is to go to university. This couldn’t be farther from the truth,” McNaughton said.
“There is as much merit to being a plumber, an electrician or a mechanic as there is in being an accountant or a banker. Every young person should know that a career in the trades can be their ticket to a better life.”