By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun
Spending a day alongside a maintenance steamfitter gave a Grade 10 student a chance to see what a day in the life of a tradesperson is really like, reinforcing her dream of one day working with her hands.
"I know I love the trades," says April Weatherby, a student at Bendale Business and Technical Institute in Scarborough.
Soaking up the trades via job shadowing.
"I like working with my hands and wouldn't ever want to work in an office," says the 15-year-old, who's interested in becoming a bricklayer. "There's a lot of physical work with many of the trades, but I'm up for the challenge."
Weatherby was among a group of 15 Toronto District School Board (TDSB) students who recently helped launch this year's job-shadowing program, designed to give them a feel for the work world.
Each month, selected students will be paired with a tradesperson from the Maintenance & Construction Skilled Trades Council, the union representing TDSB tradespeople, or with an apprentice at George Brown College. Already, about 40 schools have signed up for this year's job-shadowing program, which complements a Grade 10 Career Studies course.
"Students are introduced to a world of work and exposed to a career they're interested in," says Bernadette Shaw, chairperson of a Pre-Apprenticeship Program Steering Committee and Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) co-ordinator with the TDSB.
"They will observe the tools used and the skills the tradesperson has," Shaw says. "It allows them to make a more informed decision about what they want to do in high school and later."
Some may choose to learn more about a trade through a co-op placement. Those interested in pursuing a career in the trade can then register with OYAP, which allows them to earn credits toward their high school diploma while the hours they work on a job are applied to journeyperson certification.
The Pre-Apprenticeship Program is sponsored by CIBC, which identified youth employment as an issue that needed to be addressed when it was researching the focus of its corporate giving program in the mid-1990s.
In 1997, the bank held a conference entitled "Building Tomorrow Together." At that time, 600,000 Canadians under 24 were unemployed, reports Angela Sarino, manager of community relations at CIBC.
Mike Taylor, a maintenance steamfitter with the board, attended the conference out of concern for the future of his children. Through the Maintenance & Construction Skilled Trades Council, he helped facilitate the partnership between the school board and the CIBC.
"We've got tremendous resources at the board," says Taylor, pointing to about 600 licensed tradespeople in more than 25 trades. "We do everything from building, renovating and maintaining schools."
The benefits of introducing students to the trades are far-reaching.
Frank Coppinger, general manager of operations with the TDSB, says there is a tremendous shortage of tradespeople in Canada. "The average (tradesperson) is in (their) 50s. Therefore, organizations, including the TDSB, are concerned about the future availability of skilled labour."
The job-shadowing program is one way of connecting students to a possible career.
Says Taylor: "It's one of those rare occasions when everyone gets something out of it."
(Linda White (email@example.com)
is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)
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