~n_NoJobs - Daniqua
Ryan Paul is currently in the first week of his advanced sheet metal apprenticeship. He is captured here working on a plenum box for class

With 44 per cent of its employees anticipated to retire by 2013, Hydro Ottawa is looking to Algonquin to train its next generation of technicians.

To combat a possible shortage, four years ago, Hydro Ottawa paired with Algonquin to create the power line technician program to help fill the upcoming positions.

“A lot of baby boomers, who are trade workers, are retiring,” said Chris Hahn, the acting dean of the Perth campus. “It just creates more opportunities for youth coming up.”

Hahn, who is also the head of apprenticeship at the Perth campus, says that the apprenticeship committee have regular meetings to find out what the labour market trends are and where the demand for workers lies.

Each year Hahn says that on average they graduate approximately 220 to 240 carpenters, 160 plumbers and 360 to 400 electricians. Hahn says that these numbers have been quite steady and in some cases have increased year over year, which decreases the concern of a worker shortage.

In the past, skilled trade jobs were not seen as prestigious. However Hahn says that the image is changing among youth as well as their parents. It’s beginning to appeal to more people as a possible career opportunity, according to the Canadian apprenticeship forum.

“As long as we keep communicating the opportunities, the skilled trades shortage will be averted and if we don’t do a good enough job at that, then we will experience one,” said Hahn.

Federico Fernandez, a professor of construction, civil engineering and building science at the Woodroffe campus, said that the skill training is reflecting a construction industry which is moving from a reliance on multi-disciplinary experts to inter-disciplinary teams.

“Our ACCE building provides an excellent educational environment promoting inter-disciplinary interactivity from construction trades to technologies,” said Fernandez. “The ice court rink was one specific example of this inter-disciplinary effort where the architectural AutoCad model was uploaded to a Robotic Total Station that our civil technology students used for the field layout that was then built by the students in the carpentry program.”

This means that instead of people having one area of expertise, they are being educated in several different disciplines. With the use of new technology and tools, such as 3D modelling, people from different specialties and disciplines can interact easier than ever before.

For up-and-coming skilled trade workers, Fernandez said the best thing is to be marketable and the best way to be more marketable is by having a large spectrum of knowledge. Fernandez also says that this new method of training could help to diminish the severity of a worker shortage if workers that are entering the work force are more versatile.

And with baby boomers being between the ages of 51 and 69 and the average age of retirement in Canada being 65, this new method of training will not be wasted.