There is no easy solution to the skills shortage
Column by STEFANO LIESSI
Through the conversations and banter between training sessions, I am constantly introduced to the subject of skilled tradespeople – and the lack thereof.
Now that I’m sipping my drink and taking a deep breath, I have to practice the art of self-control because it’s a topic that triggers me. Finding, hiring and retaining skilled tradespeople is a challenge, sometimes it seems like a futile act. There is no simple solution, as there is no single cause for this scenario. Many influences and influencers contribute to what I consider to be a catastrophic societal failure. Where do I start?
Let’s start with the failure of the parents. Children are naive and harmless, as they grow they choose to experiment, they let curiosity guide them through tactile experience, as it develops cognitive ability, it’s more engaging at a young age than an academic experience. This is the basis of trades.
Putting aside the gender map, as this is a topic for a separate article, children are a product of their environment, if you interfere with the thought process that brings them to their happiness, suggesting that this n is not rewarding, they will start buying into their parents’ influence.
Parents will tend to bring what they learn as they evolve in their own parenting style. If a child’s parents have been instilled with the thought process that “blue collar” people are dirty, toxic, and humble, then as parents they will pass that stigma on to their children. Unfortunately, this stigma grows even today because of this very process. The belief for many is that college is the only way to secure your future. This is an erroneous and unsubstantiated argument that is being passed around all the time.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Skills Outlook for 2021, Canada is ranked as one of the most underemployed or overqualified populations, with 27% of employed people across the country labeled “underemployed”. The world average is five percent.
There was a time when higher education at the post-secondary level gave you an edge. This is no longer the case. This type of education has its place and serves a purpose; however, it is not for the majority. This ideology gained a strong hold in the 1960s when vocational (practical) education was seen as a dumping ground for underachieving students. Personally I decided I wanted to pursue collision repair and refinishing when I was in elementary school, when I got to high school I was denied entry to professional auto body programs because I was too smart.
The school had decided what was best for me, proving in my mind that they weren’t smart enough for their role. If you have a power-hungry administrative staff running an educational institution and the sole focus is their own austerity-minded success, not the students’, you’re in for a losing battle. Curriculum and funding are university-focused and rarely vocational-training focused. Ergo, the first to be closed due to the on-demand economy are Workshop Classes and Labs.
It’s part of the bureaucracy that destroys innovation. The education system conflicts with an inept bureaucracy to the point of making me miserable. When these patterns emerge, it becomes difficult to get students into any form of post-secondary education, including apprenticeship. Did you know that, according to Statistics Canada, only ten percent of Canadians in their thirties have completed their apprenticeship? There is another reason why you have difficulty finding good qualified employees.
Much of this stems from a less functional apprenticeship program in many provinces struggling with—yes, you guessed it right—bureaucracy. Our systems are flawed to the point where it takes so long to implement a curriculum change that the implemented outcome becomes obsolete before they can teach it.
For example, aluminum welding and repair has not yet been implemented into the curriculum of many trade colleges, but the Ford F-150 – the nation’s best-selling pickup truck – uses aluminum since 2014. It’s been eight years since the children. CATCH UP!
Why would I want to complete an apprenticeship when the information presented is dated? In some cases, the instructor is aware of the learning gap, but their hands are tied. They are required to teach the curriculum, whether it is dated or outdated.
I learned from a reliable source that the reason aluminum was dropped was due to the thought process that “aluminum is just a fad”. Good grief.
Collision centers can also add to the second underlying problem affecting learning: the disconnect between apprentice and mentor. In many cases, apprentices are paired with technicians who are less than qualified to teach or instruct. If it was a teacher or an instructor, quite frankly, he wouldn’t be on the floor. According to my trusted source, the general story goes like this: the mentor tells the apprentice, “Okay, forget what they told you in school, I’ll show you how it’s done “.
The catch is that too many of these mentors are so far removed from current OEM procedures that they end up complicating things. Oddly enough, if the apprentice’s knowledge is outdated, these mentors may have some merit in their statements. But there are other factors at play here. On the one hand, insurance influences salary processes and structures. Not to mention the negative attitudes of veteran technicians, shouting “get out while you’re young!” from their burrow at the back of the shop.
Now, to be clear, that’s not very technical – but there’s a lot more to this attitude than there should be. Remember that young people become a product of their environment, including the work environment. The effort required to scale down this initiative and expand the apprenticeship system suffers greatly from a lack of commitment from employers, the public and governments. Yet no one seems to want to take ownership of this task at hand.
So, here are some solutions that I think might help you.
Parents: Career conversations need to change. I know—changing that foundation is a tough job. This statement sums it up nicely, an article from an Alberta Education periodical: Meaningful and meaningful vocational education requires parents and teachers to help students see how school and work complement each other, and that “good jobs” take many forms.
One way to bridge the gap between academic and professional courses is to engage all students in hands-on learning opportunities. Teachers, school administrators, employers and community organizations all have an important role to play in encouraging students to learn about and through work. , rather than just for work. Remove prejudices and stereotypes. Be an advocate for your child, understand that these are life choices for him, not for you. They have to do what they want. After all, they will be doing this long after you are gone. Let them be happy.
Curriculum: starting with university. Adopt the trades. This is the future, there is a massive change afoot with ITC becoming more business related. Students need to understand the correlation between these opportunities. Trades are not a dumping ground for people with academic difficulties, trades should focus on more than basic monetary calculations. After all, a university degree usually lasts four years; an apprenticeship lasts two to four years, depending on the trade.
Honestly, in my opinion, trades should last at least four years and be more focused on on-campus learning. Let’s see all the organizations mix up their curriculum to improve trades and include high schools. The three programs are so far apart that the student finds himself almost helpless. At the collision center: this area is vital for the success of the apprentice, yet very poorly supervised. The staffing of supervising apprentices is far from what it should be, you have these people so stretched you have bosses supervising the mechanics, let that sink in. Educational institutions are reluctant to tell the workshop how to train the apprentice, which creates consistency issues. .Having trainers from different disciplines (food, design, plumbing, etc.) makes it very difficult for them to audit a store of an unrelated discipline for placement to see if it is up to standard and capable to provide a quality learning experience. On-the-job training just becomes free for all, sometimes leaving apprentices to be exploited. If the store doesn’t understand how to convey results, how does that become conducive to a quality experience?
We will need more follow-up by quality mentors verified on both sides: on the education side and on the workshop side, as well as collision center training to help them understand how to manage different styles of learning and results, up to date. results. I’m sorry: I don’t believe it takes ten years to update the program, that’s a really sad excuse.
Careers have never been as lucrative, challenging and rewarding as they are today. There is no panacea to the problem, but in my opinion, and you are entitled to my opinion, there is a common thread here, bureaucracy. And bureaucracy destroys innovation.