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A widening skills gap in Windsor-Essex is costing the region half a billion dollars every year, according to a new report from the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The Talent in Transition Report was complied after consulting with educators and business owners across Ontario.
It found 82 per cent of businesses who tried to hire staff last year had trouble finding someone with the proper qualifications.
“If improvements are not made, we will find ourselves in a situation where there are ‘people without jobs and jobs without people’,” wrote Ontario Chamber of Commerce interim CEO, Richard Koroscil, in a media release.
Skills Canada estimates almost half of new jobs created in the next decade will be in skilled trades, but only 26 per cent of young people are considering that type of career, according to the chamber.
Matt Marchand, CEO of the Windsor-Essex chamber, said it’s everyone’s responsibility to educate young people on how positive a career in the trades can be.
“Skills is a very, very important sector and there’s lots of money to be made,” he said. “At this point you can basically write your own ticket.”
Marchand said about half of the employers in the area are having trouble hiring in skills ranging from builders to forklift operators — last year there were between 400-500 jobs unfilled.
“It’s a huge issue,” he added.
‘These kids are getting jobs instantly’
Helping introduce young people to the opportunities available in the trades is a passion Mark Lokun has devoted himself to. The coordinator of the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program, a precision metal cutting program that started at W.F. Herman Secondary School says the trades have a lot to offer.
“These kids are getting jobs instantly,” he said. “We give them the training up front so they’re not going in green. We give them skills they can use.”
Over the past 25 years the program, which includes a year of Co-Op, has spread to other schools — next year they expect 85 students to be enrolled.
Grade 12 student Michael Painter said he earned more than $30,000 working at Cavalier Tool and Mold through the program last year. He added anyone willing to put in some hard work should be proud to learn a skilled trade.
“There’s nothing wrong with working with your hands. You’re thinking just as hard as anyone in school,” he said. “I love creating things. I love making something out of nothing.”
Lokun said the biggest obstacle standing between students and discovering the trades is stigma that pushes parents to send their kids to university.
The teacher said all parents need to do is visit a shop to see the kind of work that goes on there.
“We need kids who are self-starters and motivators and can think,” he said. “It’s not just turning handles and cranking machine knobs. It’s very high-tech computer stuff. These kids are getting jobs instantly.”