By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun
Giving students the tools they need to find a career they can build on is the focus of Future Building, a career exhibition that highlights opportunities in Ontario's construction industry.
"The idea is to get students interested in a career in construction and give them an understanding of the opportunities available to them, from labour to management and careers like architectural design," says Jim Wright, Future Building facilitator with the Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS).
Future Building, a three-day career exhibition, runs March 29 to 31 at Toronto's Canadian National Exhibition Grounds, National Trade Centre, Hall D. It will feature 22 exhibitors, including stone and brick masons, carpenters, electricians and operating engineers.
At the Future Building exhibition, March 29 to 31 at the CNE, students will learn they can build a career in the trades.
The event is geared toward elementary and high school students and their teachers, youth at risk and adults considering a career change.
"This is the first time we've invited elementary students and there's good reason to include them," Wright says. "They have to start thinking about choices they will be making in high school when they'll be asked to formulate ideas about where they want to go."
Students interested in the trades can even jumpstart an apprenticeship as early as Grade 11 through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program. "The concept of 'earn while you learn' is a viable option for many," Wright says.
He hopes the exhibition will dispel some of the following myths that have traditionally discouraged many students from choosing careers in the trades:
Skilled trades are boring and repetitive.
Tradespeople work on some of the most sophisticated equipment available and training is leading edge. They constantly work on new and exciting projects, OCS reports.
Skilled trade jobs are low paying.
In the construction industry, hourly pay ranges from $27 to $35 for various trades.
Construction is a male-dominated industry.
Becoming an apprentice in a non-traditional job such as construction is an attractive option for young women, OCS says.
Up to 15,000 people are expected to attend Future Building, and will be invited to try their hand at a variety of demonstrations, including a bricklaying demonstration hosted by the Canadian Masonry Centre.
That trade is considered at risk because 30% of masons will be retiring over the next decade. Together with economic growth, that spells the need for new apprentices. "It takes three to five years to train a brick and stone mason to work at a competent level," says Don Attfield, director of training at the Ontario Masonry Training Centre in Mississauga.
Masons are often associated with residential building, but that sector represents less than 14% of what they do, says Attfield. They also work in industrial, commercial and institutional projects, along with restoration work.
With a wide variety of career options available in the construction industry, Future Building is an opportunity for students to consider a career that may be right for them. "I encourage youth to find a trade they enjoy," Attfield says. "That should be their number-one motivation before money. If they do that, they will excel."
The exhibition is funded through Human Resources Development Canada and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. The Ontario Construction Secretariat is organizing it for the first time and hopes to hold the event every three years. It was previously held in 1988 and 2001.
"Our mandate is to promote skilled trades and technology as viable career options to young people," says Gail Smith, executive director, Skills Canada Ontario.
or call 416-620-5210 to learn more.
(Linda White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)
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