John Howard Society of Durham Region
Mission: To reduce the impact of crime and its causes by providing a spectrum of effective prevention and intervention programs.
Main office: 905-579-8482, 75 Richmond Street West, Oshawa, Ontario, L1G 1E3

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We Must Focus on Trades or Suffer Consequences:

Apr 10, 2006
The Government of Ontario has recently stepped up its campaign to attract youth in this province to the skilled trades.

If you listen to your local radio station you will hear what sounds like a reminder to employers that apprentices help build profit in a business. You will also hear how skilled trades people help build Ontario's economy. So, with profound apologies to Pete Seeger and Peter Paul and Mary, "Where have all the plumbers gone, long-time passing..."

Let's forget for a minute the two repeatedly stated reasons for low numbers of skilled trade workers: a supposed stigma against being a tradesperson, and the hypnotic lure of all our young to office desks and the computers that sit atop them. For interest's sake I would like to suggest two other reasons the trades are in trouble.

In order to become an apprentice, one needs a journeyman. This wonderful dynamic, long romanticized in everything from literature to Star Wars, is one that seems increasingly difficult for employers and employees alike.

The notions of being shown the ropes, taken under someone's wing, having a protactive, was presumably once the foundation of a successful society. Now, we look to ourselves, we think of ourselves, we believe we can do it ourselves.

The breakdown of the relationship between experienced and inexperienced, student and teacher, master and apprentice, has been felt most in the skilled trades and, unless the trend reverses, will eventually be felt by all of us.

The second problem is one the Government of Ontario may have more control over. We all know that beginning as early as Grade 7, many students are "streamlined" into one of two options: college or university. Those students looking to the workforce after high school have far fewer resources than those continuing on with their education.

Also, those who decide as early as Grade 9 and 10 that they aren't interested in post-secondary school, need to have a third option. Through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) and the support of some secondary schools, the education system is slowly rousing to give Ontario's youth more than an either/or approach.

At the end of February, a Youth Skilled Trades Fair was sponsored by the Government of Canada and organized by the John Howard Society of Durham Region. More than 1,000 people, many of them students, passed through the doors of Oshawa's Civic Auditorium to take a gander at 26 interactive exhibits set up by hairstylists, brick and stone masons, electricians, cooks and the other people who build, wire, move and style our lives.

The overall effect of the event was amazing, and kudos are due to those who worked to bring it together. Let's hope the trades continue to gain momentum in Durham. We may find ourselves leading the province in savvy.

Durham resident Dani Mosey has a keen interest in trades and job development.