Myth #1: The only path to a good career is with a university degree.
REALITY CHECK: Somewhere in our not-so-distant past, people began to look down on the skilled trades in favour of the so-called “knowledge” workers – narrowly defined as those holding university degrees. But as James Rubec points out in his post on the Randstad Canada HR blog, “Trades jobs were the first ‘knowledge’ jobs in society. Masons built roads and buildings, welders built ships and cars and today, technical mechanics and skilled tradespeople are building the future economy of Canada and will, over the next 20 years, construct over $300 billion in capital spending for Canadian businesses and municipalities.”
“If we can’t call skilled trades jobs ‘knowledge’ jobs, we’re doing it wrong,” he says. “Becoming a journeyman takes, in some trades like electricians, 8,000 hours of on-the-job work… Tack on three years of classes, tests and certifications and you’re talking more than 15,000 hours of training and learning.”
So while university is one path to a good career, pursuing a skilled trade apprenticeship and earning a Certificate of Qualification is a different – and equally respectable – path to a good career.
Think about it
- Just like university, apprenticeship is a form of post-secondary education and can take up to 5 years to complete.
- However, unlike university, apprentices receive paid on-the-job training with an employer 80% of the time they are pursuing their apprenticeship.
- So you are gaining experience in the real world in your actual chosen profession at the same time you are learning – and getting paid to do it.
- How many people do you know are able to immediately work in their chosen profession while they are still in school, and get paid a decent wage at the same time?
- And, as a paid apprentice, you will receive an increase in your wage each year that you progress through your apprenticeship.
- So not only do you NOT need to take on a part-time job, often in an unrelated field, on top of your school load – this job is part of your school load – you make more money than what a traditional part-time job would offer and you don’t get stuck with a huge debt.
- Oh, and you still have free time for social activities because you’re working during the day, not after hours in the evening. You’ve got it covered all in one shot.
And did you know that the skilled trades are considered “evergreen” professions? In other words, they will always be needed. To maintain a growing economy and to meet the needs of a growing population, something always needs to be built and then what is built needs to be maintained.
And once you’re in the skilled trades, experience and additional education can take you anywhere you want to go on your career path, including supervisory and management roles, health and safety, training and education, engineering and science, administration and even entrepreneurship.
So pursuing an apprenticeship to become a skilled tradesperson is not only a respectable path to a good career, it’s an awesome path to a rewarding, well-paying career with a future.
Myth #2: Careers in the trades are for students who don’t do well in school.
REALITY CHECK: The construction industry is full of smart, dynamic people who have invested many years and many thousands of hours in training and schooling to receive their professional designation.
Having your high school diploma is the best first step as this sets you up with the necessary Essential Skills you need to succeed in the workplace and in your training. To progress to higher-level positions, you’ll need to continue your education, just like in any other profession. And there is ongoing demand for trained professionals with specialized skills, requiring even more training.
The work often involves math, science and physics.
- Think you can build that world-class high-rise without the use of math?
- Or operate multi-million-dollar pieces of equipment without computer skills?
- Or weld without the knowledge of chemistry and metallurgy?
Myth #3: The trades are dead-end careers.
REALITY CHECK: Today’s tradespeople are tomorrow’s industry leaders! Gone are the days when people – in any industry – spent their entire working life doing the same thing.
Canada’s construction industry is a $100 billion+ per year industry, representing 7.2% of our gross domestic product. An industry as important as this to our economy requires ambitious, energetic, hard-working people with the motivation to succeed.
Certified tradespeople enjoy a variety of opportunities to advance their careers in any number of directions. With experience and additional training, you can move into
- supervisory and management roles
- health and safety
- training and education
- engineering and science
- and even entrepreneurship
The industry is always seeking strong leaders and great business people. The possibilities are endless.
Myth #4: Construction work is mostly just slinging tools.
REALITY CHECK: Construction work actually requires the skilled use of tools. It takes craftsmanship and pride to build structurally sound, visually pleasing and properly functioning buildings and infrastructure – craftsmanship that has been honed through many thousands of hours of practice and application.
And while construction work does require tradespeople to skillfully apply the tools of their trade – it is construction after all – depending on the nature of your work, it can also require
- creative problem solving
- confident decision making
- job task planning and organizing
- performing complex calculations
- reading and interpreting blueprints and building codes
- performing tasks that require greater memory use than most jobs
- using computer applications or technical tools to operate machinery
- and of course, thinking skills to do all of this
These skills are all referred to as Essential Skills.
Ask any tradesperson and they’ll tell you, they are constantly learning new things on the job.
So yes, as a skilled tradesperson you will need to apply your skill with the tools of your trade, just like how any professional uses the tools of his or her profession, but you need to use your brain, too!
Myth #5: Working in construction is unsafe.
REALITY CHECK: Workplace safety is a priority for the construction industry and every province and territory in Canada has strict safety standards for construction projects. All trades employers are obliged by law to provide a safe work environment for employees and every employee must be trained in safe work practices.
Safety officers are a growing profession and it’s not uncommon on larger job sites to see them walking around ensuring that workers are working safely and maintaining a safe work environment.
As a tradesperson in the industry, you also owe it to yourself to always follow safety procedures and wear the necessary protective gear for your job.
Myth #6: Women don’t belong in the trades.
REALITY CHECK: The sentiment that women don’t belong in the trades is an outdated stereotype.
With increasing retirements and a smaller pool of young people entering the skilled trades, women are a huge part of the construction industry’s future.
More and more, women are entering the trades and proving themselves to be capable, reliable and productive workers. The skilled trades require agility, endurance, balance and coordination – not a specific gender.
In today’s construction industry, men and women work as respected members of the same teams and earn the same rates. If you’re still skeptical, check out the video below of industry leaders talking about the value of women in the construction industry.