Okanagan College, the provincial government and many industry and business leaders believe in trades training.
They believe so much in this type of training that the provincial government is giving Okanagan College $28 million
towards a renovation and expansion of the Kelowna campus trades training facility.
Construction is expected to begin soon as this project will take up to four years to complete.
The project includes renovating existing shops, classrooms and administration space of approximately 4,385-square-metres. It also includes building new space (6,264-square-metres) to accommodate more than 750 trades students, many in programs that Okanagan College offers in leased space located off campus.
So what’s the problem?
Besides the current and even greater future shortage expected for workers with skilled trades training, the biggest issue is trying to convince young people (late teens/early 20s) to consider a trade as a viable career option.
For some students, this isn’t an issue. They have been attracted to the trades since elementary school, have parents who work in the trades and understand a career in the trades has its rewards.
For others, the trades aren’t even on their radar.
I don’t know why this is, but I suspect many of these students have been led to believe that university is their only option, regardless of whether they are academically capable of this level of study.
If one’s goal is to achieve a university education that is probably a good goal, but from my experience students don’t shop around enough to see what other alternatives are out there.
There are hundreds of different types of university and college programs, just like there are hundreds of different types of trades and technical programs.
So what separates these types of programs?
The biggest difference between learning a trade or earning a university or college degree usually comes down to the actual work.
Both credentials, a Red Seal trades certification (journeyperson) and a bachelor degree take approximately four years.
The work differs in one major way. Most often, but not in all cases, if you are a trades worker, your job will be more active. Chances are you will move to various work sites and you will meet, and work with, different people on a regular basis.
If you have a university degree, there is a good chance you will go to an office, spend most of your day there, and will work with same group of people day in and day out.
You probably will spend a lot of time sitting
in front of a computer. You might also spend a great deal of your time in meetings.
As for pay, well that depends on the type of degree you have or the trade you pursued.
Engineering and pharmacy university graduates tend to make the most money upon graduation. They also have some of the better job prospects.
In the trades it’s the electricians and the plumbers who tend to garner the higher wages.
Most students in the trades usually receive a solid wage once they have their Red Seal certification.
This is not the case for many students who graduate with university degrees.
Many have the education but then have to transform that learning into a career that pays.
This is where you see students with degrees in the liberal arts, social sciences, humanities and sciences wondering what’s next.
That doesn’t mean these students won’t find gainful employment, in fact statistics tell us they do and with a reasonable salary.
It’s just not as seamless for these graduates in comparison to someone with a trade or an applied diploma or degree to find a job right after graduation.
All in all, we need to attract more young people to the trades if the B.C. economy is going to prosper. Let’s hope a new upgraded facility with state-of-the-art technology geared towards trades training will do just that.