Spinning employment projections seems to be something that people do for fun.
Last year, a Macleans article projected 1.5 million jobs by 2016. More recently, the BC government asserted that one million jobs will be created in B.C. by 2020. And Ontario-based Global News puts 2020 unfilled-job projections in the tens-of-thousands. This massive disparity in projections reflects the uncertainty for the future.
Where (and if) the jobs may land, nobody really knows. But what we do know is that those with the longest workplace journey ahead of them — today’s youth — are engaged in a guessing game with very high stakes.
One thing that schools can do is provide for a broad base of skills, which EMCS is offering through their T.A.S.K. program — Trades Awareness Skills and Knowledge. The T.A.S.K. program allows students to explore a variety of trades including carpentry, drywall, electrical, plumbing, painting, metal fabrication, sheet metal and welding.
The program was introduced two years ago, and runs as an educational partnership between EMCS/SD62 and Camosun College. The program runs as a self-contained, full semester program, which students spend the entire day, five days a week, in this one class together.
Students, from Grades 10 to 12, alternate between two instructors, one from the college and one from the high school. From the college, students receive specialized trades instruction on Mondays and Wednesdays; from the high school, they receive daily lessons and hands-on building. The program runs from February to June, and during that last month the students go on work placement.
The gender gap also poses challenges. According to a Certified General Accountants report (“Labour Shortages in Skilled Trades — The Best Guestimate?”), the gender gap in the trades is huge.
“The gender mix in skilled trades continues to be highly unbalanced,” reads the report. “In fact, men accounted for as much as 93.4% of all trades workers in 2011 with this proportion not having changed materially over the past two decades.”
This year’s mix of EMCS T.A.S.K. students somewhat mirror the gender gap, with one third of the group being female. The young women are ready to face the challenge of contemplating a profession when they will be a minority, and the young men lend their support. According to Cort, having women in the class — and in the profession — “makes it more interesting.” Jordan added that women were “way more organized and precise,” and he welcomed working alongside anyone with these skill sets.
According to the 2013-2014 Superintendent’s Report on Student Achievement, the program — which is in it’s third year — has successfully provided students to connect with post-secondary institutes while still in high school.
“T.A.S.K. provides students with knowledge and hands-on experience in five different trades,” the report reads. Five trades are covered, including carpentry, electrical, welding, sheet metal and plumbing.
When asked if the T.A.S.K. program is meeting their expectations, the students all voice their consent. Derk noted that the program is “broadening my mind,” and is meeting and exceeding his expectations.
Youth unemployment is a growing concern.
According to a StatsCan Economic Insights newsletter, “In 2012, the unemployment rate of youths aged 15 to 24 was 14.3%, compared with a rate of 6.0% for workers aged 25 to 54 and workers aged 55 or older.” Keep in mind that unemployment statistics only measure students between jobs who are on so-called “Employment Insurance” (which, by the way, does nothing to insure employment).
In other words, the unemployment rate shows only a certain segment of the labour reality.
More real would be to look at the participation rate, also known as the employment to population (E/P) ratio, which in 2011 for youth in Canada (15 – 24) was 2011 64.70 per cent, according to the Mundi Index.
As this budding program develops, blending of community work experience and college-level training in a high school may well provide today’s youth with a strong starter skill set.
Britt Santowski is a reporter for the Sooke News Mirror.