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No Trade Secrets Here

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No Trade Secrets Here

Published: 08/19/2014

» Parents and Education

 

The “trades” have been enjoying a lot of hype in Alberta recently. In May of this year, Edmonton hosted the 21st Provincial Skills Canada Competition in which high school and post-secondary students competed to create projects utilizing trade and technical skills. In conjunction with Careers: The Next Generation, an organization committed to raising career option awareness in young people, the Edmonton Journal is currently running a 36-week series called “Trades Alberta”, which features stories about people and happenings in the trades. SAIT Polytechnic is preparing to launch, in the fall of 2014, an innovative Career Exploration Centre, which will offer grade eight and nine students in Calgary’s schools unique opportunities for hands-on exploration of careers in trades and technical fields.
 

Trade defined

In Canada, each province or territory determines certain careers to be trades—hence the often-heard term “designated trade”—and regulates these trades through provincial or territorial legislation. Currently, the Apprenticeship and Industry Training arm of Alberta’s Ministry of Enterprise and Advanced Education has designated 49 careers as trades, and the province’s Apprenticeship and Industry Training Act spells out the provincial regulations that govern them.
 

Each designated trade falls under one of four industry categories: construction, transpor- tation, manufacturing, or service, and is either a compulsory certification trade or an optional certification trade.
 

Generally, compulsory certification trades like electrician, hairstylist, ironworker, welder, involve rigorous monitoring. Individuals working in these trades must be certified journeypersons or registered apprentices. In optional certification trades, such as baker, carpenter, millwright and roofer journeyperson certificates can be obtained but are not required. This means non- certified individuals can work in these trades if they are self-employed or if they have the skills and knowledge of certified journeypersons, as determined by their employers.
 

All designated trades have apprenticeship programs and to learn a trade, even if that trade is an optional certification trade, students must be a registered as an apprentice.
 

Apprenticeship in high school

For high school students who already know they’re interested in the trades, there is the Registered Apprentice Program (RAP). According to Alberta Advanced Education, more than 1,300 of Alberta’s high school students were registered in RAP in 2012 and were employed as apprentices at over 1,000 government-approved employer sites. Working as apprentices and going to school part-time, students in RAP earn their high school diplomas at the same time as they earn credits for the apprenticeship programs they’ll automatically be registered in after completing high school.
 

There are fees for the technical training components of apprenticeship program but they are a fraction of the cost of university tuition. Apprentices can easily cover their training fees with the wages they earn while apprenticing. Training fees vary by trade as does the length of training required. For example, the apprenticeship term for an electrician is four years with eight weeks of technical training required during each of the first three years and 12 weeks required during the fourth year. At SAIT, the total cost of this technical training comes to approximately $4,000.


Students enter an apprenticeship program by finding an employer who’s willing to take them on as an apprentice. The employer pays their wage, provides on-the-job training, and allows them time to take technical training at a school or institution. Finding an employer willing to take students on as an apprentice can be a challenge. Because of this, students might consider a pre-apprenticeship program.
 

Pre-apprenticeship programs are great for individuals who’ve already graduated from high school.
 

Currently, SAIT offers five of these programs: Automa- tion and Instrumentation Technician, Millwrighting Technician, Pipefitting Technician, Sheet Metal Working Technician, and Welding Technician. From 21-24 weeks, these programs provide students with industry experience, and with their first-year apprenticeship certificates so they’re more employ- able as apprentices.
 

Apprentice wages are a percentage of the wage of a certified journeyperson in the trade, and typically increase as an apprentice progresses through the apprenticeship program.
 

Wages for tradespeople depend on many factors, such as the type of trade, the employer, the location, and the years of experience of the tradesperson. The Apprenticeship and Industry Training website offers typical wage range for numerous journeyperson working in Alberta.
 

For a rough idea, painters earn $16-$30 an hour, boilermaker between $23-$31, electricians earn $25-$40 and heavy equipment technician between $30-$60. Hairstylists earn at the lower end between $10-$17 but since they work on commission, their earning potentially is significant. In terms of annually salary, this means tradespeople are earning between $20,000 and $100,000+ a year.
 

Scholarships

To encourage Alberta’s apprentices to complete and excel, the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board offers over 900 scholarships each year. In the past 10 years more than $5 million in apprentice scholarships have been awarded.
 

Employment outlook

There is definitely a demand for tradespeople, and it encompasses the construction and the oil and gas industries, with the most in-demand tradespeople being boilermakers, millwrights, carpenters, steamfitter- pipefitters, welders, electricians, and plumbers.
 

The Alberta government engages in job outlook analysis called the Short-Term Employment Forecast (STEF). which ranks 217 occupations in terms of demand for 2013 through 2014. According to STEF, trades in high demand for this period include instrument technicians, chefs (cooks), concrete finishers, and a range of auto body and heavy duty mechanics and technicians. But, the easiest way to gauge demand is by paying attention to how industry is responding to apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship is a job, so if employers are advertising for, or eager to take on apprentices, that indicates a demand in that particular trade.
 

Electrician and welder are what SAIT has dubbed the “bellwether” trades, because, these are the trades that are involved early in large projects—welders put up steel so other trades can come in to do the construction, and electricians do the wiring at the beginning of a project— so when there’s a change in demand for welders and electricians, this indicates a shift in the economy. The technical programs for apprentice electricians and welders are the largest ones at SAIT, which trains about 2,000 electricians and 700 welders a year. There’s currently no sign that things are slowing down.
 

The Alberta Regional Council of Carpenters and Allied Workers advises that work opportunities in the construction industry look unlimited. The aging baby boomer workforce continues to retire, and the provinces of Alberta, B.C., and Newfoundland, in particular, are currently experiencing high demand for tradespeople. But industry is more exposed to the peaks and valleys of the economy than most other industries and, in Alberta, trades are very much tied to the oil sands. Tradespeople need to be aware and plan for the ups and downs of the trade job market.
 

Mobility and advancement

While having recognized credentials in a trade does offer individuals a certain level of mobility, having a Red Seal endorsement on those credentials takes that mobility to an even higher level. A Red Seal trade is recognized by industry everywhere in Canada. It means individuals would not be required to take any other exams or obtain other qualifications for that trade regardless of the province in which they work. Currently there are over 50 Red Seal trades.
 

For tradespeople who are Red Seal certified and decide they want to obtain a university degree, NAIT offers a unique “Trades to Degrees” program, which allows them to enter the third year of the Bachelor of Business Administration program. They can take classes part- time while they work, in order to get the 60 hours of coursework required to be awarded the degree.
 

Apprentice and Industry Training also offers a Blue Seal Certificate program. A certified tradesperson who completes an approved program of study in business is awarded the Blue Seal Certificate, which facilities movement into supervisory or leader- ship positions.
 

The typical career path for a tradesperson is to start as an apprentice, obtain a journeyman certificate, gain a few years of experience and then start looking at supervisory or management positions. Post-secondary education includes apprenticeship, participation in the Red or Blue seal programs and the option of returning to school to take business courses. For those looking for a more balanced approach to learning and work, the trades may be a perfect solution.

 

Resources 

Alberta Learning Information Services

http://alis.alberta.ca/index.html http://tradesecrets.alberta.ca/trades-occupations/ trades-occupations-list/

Technical training and fees for the trades in Alberta

http://tradesecrets.alberta.ca/technical-training- centre/technical-training-class-schedules

Apprenticeship scholarships

Visit http://tradesecrets.alberta.ca/financial-assistance /scholarships

RAP

http://tradesecrets.alberta.ca/learn-on-the-job/who- can-learn-a-trade/registeredapprenticeship-program/

Alberta Short-Term Employment Forecast (STEF)

http://eae.alberta.ca/documents/Short- term-Employment-Forecast-tool.pdf

Alberta’s Occupational Demand and Supply Outlook, 2011-2021 http://eae.alberta.ca/documents/ occupational-demand-and-supply-outlook.pdf