Ontario rolling out more skilled-trades teaching trailers with safety focus

Skills Ontario receives $5M in funding to increase promotion of trades careers

Ontario rolling out more skilled-trades teaching trailers with safety focus

Ontario is gearing up to tackle its shortage of skilled trades workers head-on with a plan that utilizes truck trailers as classrooms while putting safety training front and centre. Skills Ontario, a provincial agency dedicated to promoting skilled trades and technology careers, is leading the initiative, and already rolled out one of these trailers. Now it’s received $5 million in funding from the province to create three more.

"Our raison d'etre is to promote skilled trades and technology careers to young people and other audiences,” explains Skills Ontario CEO Ian Howcroft. “The truck allows us to give an experiential opportunity to explore a career in the skilled trades or technology."

The trucks, equipped with simulators and interactive stations, offer aspiring tradespeople hands-on experience in operating heavy equipment, practicing welding, painting, and understanding various trades. More than just an introduction, the immersive experience is designed to spark interest and ignite passion for the trades.

It’s not unlike the safety bus, which brings critical workplace safety training directly to job sites. And while the new trailers are focused on promoting the trades, Skills Ontario remains adamant about prioritizing safety at every stage of exploration.

Safety is a non-negotiable foundational skill that permeates all aspects of Skills Ontario's programs. "We view health and safety as paramount,” says Howcroft. “When we go into the schools or present at large events, we make it a point to educate young people about the importance of safety in any work environment, especially in the skilled trades."

Partnering with organizations like the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) and the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA), Skills Ontario ensures their presentations, competitions, and activities integrate health and safety principles. The focus is to instill a safety-first mindset in all aspiring skilled trades workers, ensuring they understand the critical importance of following best practices and protocols on the job.

The shortage of skilled workers is not a challenge unique to Ontario. The nation is facing a significant gap in the skilled trades workforce, and addressing this requires a multifaceted approach. "There's a huge shortfall right now. It's going to take a while before we're going to see all these gaps closed," says Howcroft.

For someone like Jasmine Ramrup, who works as a senior safety specialist with Barrick Gold, hearing that Ontario is promoting the skilled trades, gives her hope the long standing problem of finding qualified workers will be alleviated.

“I love the push that Ontario's putting through to getting people into trades, because that was not the messaging I had when I was going through in high school,” says Ramrup. She also suggests building an occupational health and safety course into the high school curriculum, like what exists in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Skills Ontario is confident that by combining their efforts with other measures, such as attracting underrepresented groups, including women, indigenous youth, and new Canadians, the industry can slowly bridge the skills gap while ensuring a diverse and inclusive workforce. "We're seeing increases, but there's still a long way to go, especially when it comes to women in skilled trades," said Howcroft.

The focus on safety and inclusivity is poised to make the skilled trades more appealing to young individuals and their parents, who are increasingly recognizing the value of pursuing a career in the trades. Skills Ontario's proactive approach, combined with support from industry partners and the government, is a crucial step towards securing a safe and skilled workforce to meet the demands of the future.