September 15, 2013
Some Stats Canada figures show what many in the industry have known for some time: there’s is a shortage of skilled-trades workers.

The really bad news, according to new data from Statistics Canada, is that it will likely get worse as the number of qualified older workers approaching retirement outnumbers the younger ones who will take their place.

The stats show that young people are studying less traditional topics such as cosmetology and grooming, food services and even funeral services.

There is a lower proportion of adults ages 25 to 34 holding a trades certificate, compared with older adults ages 55 to 64.

Across Canada, approximately 2.2 million Canadians ages 25 to 64 — about 12.1 per cent of the total population in that age bracket — hold some form of trades’ certificate (including a certificate or diploma, or a registered apprenticeship certificate) as their highest level of education. Landscape/horticulture is among them.

The most common certificates are in mechanic and repair fields, construction trades, and personal and culinary services. Alberta and Saskatchewan have the highest proportions of people holding registered apprenticeship certificates, with Ontario the lowest.

In 2011, 10.7 per cent of adults ages 25 to 34 had a trades certificate, compared with 12.8 per cent among adults aged 55 to 64.

The problems were particularly acute for mechanics, machinists and welders, and construction workers, according to the Statistics Canada data. There were 67,680 young Canadians with a trades certificate in “mechanic and repair technologies/technicians,” compared with 104,200 older adults.

In construction trades, there were 5,600 (or 6.3 per cent) fewer young people with a trades certificate compared to their older counterparts.

Sarah Watts-Rynard, executive director of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, said the skilled trades workforce is facing “a demographic crunch” in the coming years, which signals Canada has not done a very good job attracting young Canadians to the trades over the past few generations.

Skilled trades workers are critically important for the Canadian economy, she said, because they’re the people building new, and maintaining older, infrastructure.

“We have this desperate need for people who have the skills to do this work in place. It’s not something you can send off to China to get it done — it happens here,” she said.