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Introduction to Skilled Trades

A  Skilled Trade is a career path that requires hands-on work and specialty knowledge. The knowledge needed in many of the skilled trades is extensive and is considered equivalent to a College or University degree.

The skilled trades offer students a variety of rewarding and lucrative career opportunities. With specialty training, hands-on work and jobs in high-demand, skilled trades give students a wide range of secure, high-paying and satisfying careers.

Skilled trades workers build and maintain infrastructure like our homes, schools, hospitals, roads, farms and parks. They keep industries running and perform many services we rely on every day, like hairstyling, food preparation or social services.

Jobs in the skilled trades are in high demand with paid placements as you learn skills on-the-job.  Cutting-edge technology is used with great earning potential. Often Skilled Trades workers become business owners, inspectors, managers and supervisors.

There are many different pathways that can take you to the trades. Some students begin their training in high school by taking co-operative education or a Pathways Program such as an Ontario Youth Apprenticeship (OYAP) or Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) Program. Others ‘sign on’ right out of high school with a skilled journeyperson who helps support their pathway to their skilled trade of interest. Others take a pre-apprenticeship program at college to give them a chance to explore a trade and make connections to employers in the trades. There is no right or wrong way to get there!

Apprenticeship is a  post-secondary education combining on-the-job training and in-class learning to teach skilled trades. An apprenticeship is a pathway to a rewarding career in the trades. As an apprentice, you learn your trade by working under the direction of experienced workers and get paid while you do it.

In the near future, one in five new jobs in Ontario is expected to be in trades-related occupations. With an aging workforce, employers are looking for skilled tradespeople who can help build and maintain our province and provide essential services.

It is expected that the Skilled Trade labour shortage will reach 1.2 million skilled labourers.

The skilled trades are broken down into 2 categories: Compulsory and Voluntary.

Compulsory Trade:

A trade in which registration as an apprentice, journeyperson candidate or certification as a journeyperson is mandatory. There are currently 23 skilled trades that are designated “compulsory”.

Voluntary Trade:

 A trade in which certification and/or membership in the provincial regulatory body are not legally required to practice the trade.

There are 9 steps to becoming a skilled trades person from high school.

  1. Find an employer or sponsor: A sponsor is someone who provides you with apprenticeship training. A sponsor can be a single employer, individual (for example, a contractor) or a group of employers (for example, unions or non-union consortiums).
  2. Apply for an apprenticeship: In high school, contact your Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program Coordinator to arrange  the registration  with the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD).
  3. Sign a training agreement: If your application is approved, the ministry (MLTSD) will create a training agreement for you and your sponsor to sign, approve the signed agreement and register your apprenticeship training.
  4. Register with the Provincial Regulatory Body Skilled Trades Ontario: Once your training agreement has been registered, you have 90 days to apply for membership with the Skilled Trades Ontario (formally Ontario College of Trades). You must be a member of the College to work as an apprentice.
  5. Upon graduation from high school, notify the MLTSD if you plan to continue your apprenticeship.
  6. Work and complete the competency booklet specific to the apprenticing trade.
  7. When notified by the MLTSD, attend the college level in-school program. This may be 8-10 weeks in duration or one day per week. The college training may be 2 or 3 sessions, depending on the trade.
  8. Complete the apprenticeship by attending trade school sessions and completing the competency booklet.
  9. When notified, you may challenge the Certificate of Qualifications exam. The exam tests the apprentice's knowledge in the chosen trade. If successful, the apprentice is granted a Certificate of Qualification (C of Q).

Careers in the Skilled Trades

There are more than 140 skilled trades in Ontario.

They fall under four sectors: construction, industrial, transportation and service.

There are a range of career opportunities, such as:

  • Automotive service technician
  • Carpenter
  • Cook
  • Crane operator
  • Developmental services worker
  • Electrician
  • Elevating device mechanic
  • Hairstylist
  • Heavy equipment operation
  • Horticulture technician
  • Industrial mechanic millwright
  • Plumber
  • Refrigeration and air conditioning systems mechanic
  • Sheet metal worker
  • Steamfitter
  • Welder
4 Sectors for Skilled Trades

We will look into these further as we examine Skilled Trades Apprenticeships, Skilled Trade Colleges and Skilled Trade OYAP Programs.