By Terry Tinkess
AgriNews Staff Writer
Judging by the number of craft shows and hand-made exhibitions across Eastern Ontario, it seems that the pendulum seems to be swinging back somewhat toward the choice of the consumer for quality versus disposable and easily replaced. Many people do, it seems, see the value in things that are created by people, one at a time.
As a natural progression of this trend, many seeking new challenges and the learning of new skills are diving into this area of creative endeavour, and it couldn’t come at a better time, particularly for those who are willing to take that new knowledge and navigate it into a career change.
In October, the provincial government announced it was investing $3.7 million to help up to 2,500 workers start or advance in well-paying careers in the construction industry. The investment was necessary in part because Ontario will need 100,000 more construction workers to help deliver the province’s ambitious infrastructure plans. Recent studies indicate that Ontario’s construction sector had 28,360 jobs waiting to be filled in the second quarter of 2022, up from 20,895 in the second quarter of 2021. This was due in part because many workers in the skilled trades were choosing to retire. Nearly one in three people in Ontario with trades certificates were aged 55 years or older.
Part of the lure to a career in the trades is that they pay well. In 2021, the average hourly wage in Ontario was $36 for industrial electricians, $32 for bricklayers, and $26 for welders.
“Construction workers are heroes who keep our province running by building the roads, hospitals, homes, and schools that we rely on every day,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, in making the funding announcement.
“With billions of dollars in infrastructure investments on the horizon, we need all hands-on deck to get the job done. Our government will continue to invest in programs that ease labour shortage and give workers the tools to earn bigger paycheques for themselves and their families.”
But what if you’re not at the point of making the leap of faith that comes with a complete career swing? For one category of underrepresented workers, women, there are options to try things out and see how quickly you can become comfortable with some of the tools of the trade.
Many community colleges in eastern Ontario frequently offer continuing education courses in some trades, with carpentry being the one seen most frequently. Some individuals have also started offering women only courses, the thought being that in a women-only group, attendees would feel more comfortable and less intimidated by male students. (Truth be told, comfort with power tools is not gender-specific and not a genetic trait. Anyone can learn to use power tools safely. It is a matter of respecting, not fearing what they can do.)
One such course is offered by Perth carpenter Amy Webster, a graduate of the Heritage Carpentry and Joinery offered by Algonquin College at their Perth campus.
Webster offers a series of power tool workshops for women that are designed to help attendees become comfortable with them and learn how to work safely. You leave with an understanding of what they can do, and build a set of sawhorses, which might help with any future projects you might have in mind.
The courses, which are five hours in length run throughout the winter months. You can get more information by visiting Webster’s website at wildwoodperth.com.
It might lead to a new career, or simply help you learn how to create something with your own hands something that will last longer than the glue and sawdust furniture that fills the online shops. Whichever route you choose you will leave with a new level of confidence, and that is well worth the price of admission.