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Sixty five percent of our high school students do not pursue a college/ university education. Not everyone wants to be a doctor, lawyer or teacher.

We have been told over and over again that there is a great shortage of skilled tradesmen. I checked out the web site Workopolis and found that there has been a 60 percent increase in postings for tradesmen. "While the number of listings for skilled workers rose dramatically, the number of skilled workers seeking employment dropped." Simple, it is all about supply and demand.

There is a huge shortage of electricians, plumbers, carpenters and mechanics.

Most of the trades need a grade twelve diploma. In order to start an apprenticeship you must find employment with a company that has skilled tradesmen (journeymen) who are willing to provide on site job training. You apprentice for five years with three two month intakes at a community college for the theory component. The fees for attending classes for eight weeks is $400.00: the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities used to pick up the total costs but now the student pay for their own tuition and books.

We have thousands of young people who are denied a meaningful career in the trades. The catch 22 is to find a company that will hire you and sign on the dotted line that they will provide the necessary training.

The tradesmen that I interviewed told me the same litany of complaints. No one wants to spend the money to educate our high school graduates. If the human resources department needs a skilled trades person they often steal (poach) them away from another company.

London industries have trades people but few apprentices. Kellogg Canada Inc. has a work force of 600 with 100 designated as skilled: millwrights, electricians, steam fitters. The last apprentice that was hired was 13 years ago.

The L T C( London Transit) and the City of London employs a total of 95 Truck and Coach (Diesel Mechanics) but not one apprentice. Reminds me of the quote: none is too many." Mechanics do quite well; they earn $25.00 per hour plus medical benefits a clothing allowance and can look forward to a great pension. It sure as hell beats pumping gas for minimum hourly wage at the local 7/11.

Rod Cameron, Dean of Applied Training and Motor Power, at Fanshawe College kindly gave me a telephone interview. He agreed that the road for high school graduates looking for an apprenticeship is very hard.

The large corporations poach their trades people from small independent mom and dad outfits. In the past Canadian industry was able to lure skilled workers from England and Europe. No longer. Europe/ British Isle workers are doing quite well: they have no need to immigrate across the ocean to enjoy a decent life style.

Small cap companies in the little villages and hamlets offer a hand up to our kids. Family member contacts with trades people help, who you know sure makes a big difference.

Len Greenwell, chairman of apprenticeship, for 150 Iron Workers in the London area told me that his union trains their own students with a 1:5 ratio of journeymen to apprentices. Sadly, they are the exception.

Everyone admits that it is a crying shame that our young men and women are shut out of the trades. Simple , no job, no apprenticeship and no tradesmen. Canadians suffer the consequences of the lack of skilled craftsmen. We will have delays and higher costs for construction companies, manufacturers and other labour-orientated businesses, according to the web site, Workopolis.

The Ministry of Trades faxed me six full sheets titled, "Projections of Retirements by Occupations for 2000-2010." Scary. "One third of our skilled trades people in 1996 was forty five years and older" To-day they are 53 plus. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure that we have an ageing work force. Companies for years have been robbing Paul to pay Peter to make up for the short fall.

Rod Cameron has a simple solution to help get rid of the bottleneck and provide meaningful jobs and apprenticeships for our youth. "The Federal government should provide tax incentives for companies that employ apprentices." There is no federal provincial agreement on training between Ontario and the powers in Ottawa. It is all about politics. Pity.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com