Skilled trades a vanishing breed

A great mystery surrounds education in the province, says the president of the Ontario Real Estate Association.

Young people are not being trained in the skilled trades.

“There are not very many (young people) getting the skills they need to go out and get a job with,” says Ron Abraham.

“I don’t understand why the provincial government is not doing more” to push the skilled trades, Abraham said Tuesday in an interview in North Bay.

He noted apprenticeships in particular are a long process. Many, such as welders, plumbers and electricians are few and far between, particularly in Northern Ontario.

“We are not encouraging young people to do those things. They all want to be computer experts, but you can only have so many of them.”

Skilled trades, he notes, are also well-paying jobs.

“There is big money in there,” Abraham said. “It’s not unusual to be able to take someone off the street, and if they work hard they can make $100,000 a year in the construction or mining industries.”

Yet, he said, during a recent visit to Timmins he found out that many construction and mining jobs are not being filled by local young people.

“They can’t find people to do them,” he said.

He says there is such a demand that, in some cases, employers have to look outside the country to find the skilled trades people they need.

“What you have to understand is that brick layers, stone masons — they are very skilled trades — we will always need them,” he said.

But it is difficult to find young people who want to go into those trades.

His concerns are shared by local builders, who admit they sometimes have to scramble to find skilled trades people.

At Bay Builders, owner Nicole Neff also has concerns about the lack of young skilled trades people.

“It’s going to be very scary over the next few years,” she says. “What is going to happen as good, skilled people retire?

“The average age now is 45 to 70,” she says.

“The younger generation is getting into the tech stuff,” says Tony Ferreira, of A&J Ferreira Homes Ltd. “They are not taking the place of bricklayers. (It’s a problem) if you don’t have capable people. You can’t do good work.”

Ferreira said he isn’t as affected by the shortage as some other builders. His business focuses on residential construction where projects are smaller, but “it can cause delays and frustrations.”

By PJ WILSON, The Nugget
Tuesday, September 18, 2012