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Demand for skilled trades continues as new school year prepares to start

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With hundreds of thousands of skilled tradespeople expected to reach retirement in the coming years, those in the sector are concerned about the future.

“We’ll be in trouble,” said Jacob LeDrew, a plumbing instructor with the Amherst Learning Centre.

“I can tell you right now, we really, not only has a province but a country, really need to find ways to get people in to fill this gap or we’re going to be in trouble. There’s no doubt about it.”

LeDrew has been a plumbing instructor for the last three years and he says there is still space available for the 2023-2024 school year even as the country continues to see an increased demand across all sectors.

“I think a lot of people feel you need experience or have some sort of knowledge with tools or working with building supplies and things like that, these programs that are offered, like the one I teach here, are definitely back to basics and are open to everybody,” he said.

“You don’t need any experience, it doesn’t necessarily have to be young people, older people, it’s open to everybody.”

He says in terms of trends, there has been issues across the board encouraging people to get into the trades and says right now there has to be a focus on thinking outside the box when it comes to recruiting more people.

“In Cumberland County we kind of need to go out banging door to door so to speak. We do a lot of work, I know our academic chairs and principal here at our college bring in a lot of the local high schools and principals and a lot of the O2 students will come in to try a trade or even for a visit,” said LeDrew.

The Government of Canada has stated that over 256,000 new apprentices are needed over the next five years to meet the demand, adding that across the country there are more than 300 trades to choose from with 54 having a red seal trade designation.

“The trade that I teach in plumbing here in Amherst is an accredited trade so the plumbing program is protected, you need to be licensed to do any work in the trade which is great for anybody thinking of getting into it,” said LeDrew.

“So once you’re indentured or getting into the trade, your job is always protected because not just anyone can do plumbing work.”

For those who currently work in the industry, it was a job that came with a lot of reasons to join.

“It’s not the same thing every day, you learn every day,” said Kelly Spicer, a refrigeration & geothermal technician.

“It’s different challenges and it’s a transferable skill so even if you don’t decided to do that exact thing then you’re learning stuff that you can apply to other stuff.”

Spicer got into the trades in 2020 following a career change, and says while looking at high-demands on job banks everyone was looking for tradespeople.

“I am so confident in this. There is way more work than there is people. It gives you really good job security,” she said.

Blaize Stanley graduated in 2022 and has spent the last year out in the field.

“The reason I chose to was the help for the planet,” he said.

“The geothermal aspect of the trade, it’s an energy efficient way to heat and cool spaces compared to burning oil or fossil fuels.”

While he admits that he didn’t always want to go into the trades, he realized near the end of high school that more hands-on work was a better fit for him.

“You’re unionized work, which you can’t complain about with any line or work and working in the trade, it feels honest and rewarding,” he said.

While the need for skilled trades is being seen across the entire sector, a report from last year says that in Atlantic Canada the top demand is carpenters, cooks, hairstylists, heavy duty equipment technicians, industrial electricians and welders.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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