Making the Case for Trades
Times have changed in the world of jobs. You might have heard from your parents or teachers that the best way to get a high-paid, reliable job is through a university education. Sometimes that still holds true. These days, however, a better choice for both men and women might be a skilled trade, where there are many opportunities for a rewarding career.
What comes to your mind when you hear the term “trade”? Do you think of low-paid labourers, barely making enough money to pay their bills and never sure how much longer their jobs will last? Many unskilled labourers work under these conditions, but the situation is different for skilled tradespeople. They are often well-educated, with diplomas or certificates in their fields.
Tradespeople might have as much education as university graduates. Unlike many university programs, however, training in the trades is geared specifically to learning the practical skills needed on the job. Tradespeople might be trained as carpenters, auto mechanics, electricians or any of the other trades. Through practical work and classroom studies, they learn everything they need to know to work in their trades. Another important part of the training process in the trades is an apprenticeship, in which students work together with an experienced person to learn practical skills for the job. For some trades they might also need to get an official license or certificate.
Becoming qualified in a trade can take from one to three years of classroom education, between two and four years of apprenticeship, and two or three years of on-the-job training. Many university programs are just as long or even longer and more expensive. Graduates can also have trouble finding work in their field. In contrast, tradespeople can usually find work soon after they finish their studies and can easily pay off any loans they received for their school tuition.
Almost anyone can become qualified to work in a trade. Most tradespeople, about 97 % in 2007, are men. However, more women are joining the trades and becoming qualified to work in carpentry, welding and other skilled trades. Possibly up to 320,000 people in Canada currently working in construction alone will be retiring in the next few years and that could open up good opportunities for both men and women. Becoming a journeyperson (someone with official qualifications in a skilled trade) could be a wise career move.
How do you know if you could be successful in skilled trade? Natural ability and interest are important places to start. If you love to take things apart to see how they work, you might want to choose to be a mechanic or electrician. If you have a fear of heights, on the other hand, you might not want to choose the construction industry. The best way to decide whether or not a trade would suit you is to research it and to talk with people about it. Then, if you decide to pursue a trade, you’ll have a good basis for a stable and rewarding lifelong career.