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More data needed to predict trades shortfall: workforce planning group

The average age of a journeyperson working in the area’s top 10 trades is 52, and many could soon retire, signalling a potential coming shortage.
Workforce Planning for Sudbury & Manitoulin said it’s not certain how many tradespeople are actually working in the area, making it difficult to predict shortfalls in some skilled trades.

Better data is needed to predict future shortages in the skilled trades, according to Workforce Planning for Sudbury & Manitoulin.

In a Nov. 22 news release, the organization said it was unable to attain geographically specific data from the Ontario College of Trades about certain trades and apprenticeships in the Sudbury area.

The problem, noted Reggie Caverson, the group’s executive director, is that of the 156 trades in Ontario, only 22 are compulsory and require registration with the College of Trades; the rest, including carpenters, millwrights, and welders, don’t have to register.

“This means that virtually no other data exists on how many journeypersons work in these voluntary trades,” Caverson said.

“We have no information on who they are, how old they are, or where they work. A lot of key data is simply unavailable.”

College of Trades data shows that 4,305 journeypersons are registered in the Sudbury and Manitoulin area. Of the top 10 trades where most journeypersons work, fewer than one per cent are women. The exception is hairstyling.

The average age of journeypersons in those top 10 trades is 52, which means that many could retire in the next few years, potentially creating a shortage, Caverson noted.

Of the 1,670 apprentices in the area — apprentices are all required to register with the college — 1,049 are men, while only 97 are women.

Caverson said reports indicate not all apprentices have registered, however, and there’s no clear indication as to why.

“While a true picture of who is working in the trades and where future shortages will exist is not available, what we do know is that our trades workforce is aging,” Caverson said.

“We also know that many students are driven to a university pathway instead of being supported to take a career in the trades. Of those who take a trades programs, finding an employer to hire them is a significant challenge.”

Caverson said this is frustrating, as many employers report wanting someone who is ready-trained with five to eight years’ of experience but are not willing to provide the training that an apprentice needs to become certified in their trade.