Workforce WindsorEssex unveils new resources to attract apprentices

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Published: February 14th, 2019, The Windsor Star (Taylor Campbell)

Workforce WindsorEssex aims to address a local shortage of skilled labourers with a series of new resources that encourage students and jobseekers to peruse apprenticeships.

As part of its WEexplore Trades project, the local employment and planning council launched Thursday a career guide, videos, and enhancements to its online job exploration tool to get people interested in skilled trade careers.

“The skill shortage right now is definitely in the thousands,” Tashlyn Teskey, project coordinator and lead researcher for Workforce WindsorEssex said at the presentation held inside LiUNA Local 625’s Oldcastle trade training location. “Right now there’s a stigma that the skilled trades careers are dangerous, [are] not stable employment, they don’t pay well, and may be for people who didn’t do well in school. But that’s just not true.”

In fact they are rewarding careers with excellent wages, benefits, and pensions

Manufacturing, construction, and motor power were just a few of the sectors Teskey listed as requiring high levels of knowledge, and being safe with the right training, to counter the stigma.

Construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge project alone will create an estimated 2500 jobs, Heather Grondin, vice president of communications and stakeholder relations for the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority said.

“When they’re looking to fill those jobs, they’ll be looking at the skilled trades,” Grondin said. “They’ll be looking at the skilled labour force in the areas of iron workers, millwrights, structural welders, heavy equipment operators, and electricians.

“Workforce WindsorEssex has played a very significant role in helping to paint a picture of what these workers will look like and what background and skillsets they need to bring forward.”

The organization’s new career guide, which is available online, shares detailed information about 26 in-demand skilled trade occupations, including their training pathways, required skills, working conditions, and expected wages.

Four new engagement videos covering skilled trade workers in the construction, motive power, industrial and service sectors filmed in four different local job settings are also available online. Workers at LiUNA Local 625, dealership Provincial Chrysler, AV Gauge and Fixture, and Bread Meats Bread all took part in the filming, sharing their experiences in training and in the workforce.

“We need to change the stereotypical view that the skilled trades are the little brother to other post-secondary destinations, because they’re not,” said Dan Fister, the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board’s executive superintendent of innovation and experiential leaning. “In fact they are rewarding careers with excellent wages, benefits, and pensions.”

New enhancements to the organization’s popular WEexplore tool allow for the filtering of apprenticeable careers, so occupations like carpenter will have both an apprentice carpenter and carpenter option to click for different wage information.

In an effort to encourage more women to pursue an apprenticeship in the skilled trades, Workforce WindsorEssex created a moderated Facebook group called Windsor-Essex Women in Skilled Trades, where women interested in or working in the field can participate in an informal mentorship environment.

For local secondary school students, Workforce WindsorEssex will hold the region’s first ever Test Drive Day on March 5. That day, up to 500 students will visit as many as 12 workplaces that employ apprentices and journeypersons. During the school year, the organization assists the region’s school boards by helping students enrol in experiential learning activities like the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program, the Specialist High Skills Major Program, and co-operative education programs. Through these programs, students can complete a year and a half of skilled trade apprenticeships before they complete high school.

“Most apprenticeships take two to four years, so if they can get that first year knocked out before they’ve even graduated, they can be a journey person by the age of 20,” Teskey said.