Engagement and Exposure to the Trades

For Skills/Compétences Canada (SCC), it’s all about exposing young women and men to skilled trades and technologies.

Founded in 1989, the national, not-for-profit organization actively promotes the skills movement in Canada, providing direction and guidance to over 100,000 young people a year just through the competitions to create awareness about the opportunities and potential that exist within skilled trades and technologies.

“There is a wide array of careers in skilled trades and technologies,” says Shaun Thorson, Chief Executive Officer. “Through Skills Canada, we show students what it would be like to pursue those occupations through experiential, hands-on activities that get the tools and materials into their hands.”

Skills Canada is proudly represented in all provinces and territories in the country. The federated model works to deliver programs that meet provincial/territorial needs and is a vital component to ensure Canada’s economic success through a strong and skilled workforce.

According to a survey by the Business Development Bank of Canada, Canada is in the midst of a skilled labour shortage. Skills Canada works to show Canadians there are good quality, well-paying and flexible careers in the trades and that trade and technology occupations are evolving. Skills Canada wants young Canadians to see that solid essential skills such as numeracy and problem-solving skills are important to be successful in the trades.

“Every year our provincial/territorial member organizations hold provincial/territorial skilled trade and technology competitions,” says Thorson. “The winners of these then go on to the Skills Canada National Competition, where over 560 competitors compete in 45 skill areas, showcasing the best and brightest in the country.”

The competition is “an interactive and engaging environment” for the thousands of young people who attend the competitions as spectators. The 2019 Skills Canada National Competition counted over 7,200 registered student and teacher visitors in attendance.

“The idea around our Skills Canada National Competitions (SCNC) is to engage those students with a specific interest and skills in trade or technological occupational areas. We raise the profile and recognize the skills of those young people, like high level academics or athletics,” says Thorson. “It also reinforces for those students that they are part of a larger group of people with a shared passion.”

Skills Canada works closely with the Government of Canada on the promotion of essential skills—skills that are used in every job to varying degrees and at different levels of complexity. “These nine essential skills, as identified by the government, provide a foundation for success in all occupations.” Essential skills demonstrations are a big part of SCNC, with students and guests engaging in hands-on challenges, presentations, and interactive activities. “We want to showcase and increase their awareness of how to recognize the essential skills in any given trade or technology career,” says Thorson.

Thorson says although Skills Canada was unable to host its flagship event this year, the cancellation of SCNC 2020 in Vancouver will not stop them from promoting skilled trade and technology careers to youth and apprentices. “It’s a great opportunity for exposure,” says Thorson. “Couple that with observation, and it creates a strong case for why they might want to explore these occupations.”
Thorson says Skills Canada’s overarching message for young people is to understand their options, and they should do their own research when it comes to their future career options. “We say, go out there and look at different sectors you can work in, at the different occupations, and which skills are needed to succeed,” says Thorson.