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Door's open to the trades, LiUNA tells students, with retirements and a building boom on the horizon

Braeden Comtois from École secondaire catholique E.J. Lajeunesse tries out a jackhammer at LiUNA Local 625 as part of Workforce Windsor-Essex's industry tour day. More than 500 students participated.  (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)
Braeden Comtois from École secondaire catholique E.J. Lajeunesse tries out a jackhammer at LiUNA Local 625 as part of Workforce Windsor-Essex's industry tour day. More than 500 students participated. (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)

High school student Mila Stiller hopped behind the wheel of a front-end loader on Thursday. It was something new — and a chance to learn more about careers in the trades.

"I've never done anything like this, so it was definitely like an experience to learn how to do that," Stiller said.

While she's interested in a career in science, she says she's taking a shop class at her school, École secondaire catholique E.J. Lajeunesse, to gain some new skills and know how to take care of herself.

École secondaire catholique E.J. Lajeunesse Grade 10 student Mila Stiller tried her hand at operating a front-end loader at LiUNA Local 625's training centre.
École secondaire catholique E.J. Lajeunesse Grade 10 student Mila Stiller tried her hand at operating a front-end loader at LiUNA Local 625's training centre.

École secondaire catholique E.J. Lajeunesse Grade 10 student Mila Stiller tried her hand at operating a front-end loader at LiUNA Local 625's training centre. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

She signed up to participate in Workforce Windsor-Essex's Industry Tour Day on Thursday, and says she learned a lot from a presentation from the Laborers' International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 625 as she toured their training centre.

Another student, Claudia Hajingabo, said it was nice to know more about all the possibilities of a career in the trades.

"I certainly didn't know everything in this career, specifically all the options," Hajingabo said. "You have a lot more."

More than 500 students who toured a handful of local workplaces in tech, manufacturing, industry and hospitality as part of the event. Students came from all four school boards.

"We just tried to get it as diverse as possible. Construction obviously is high demand, so that was a good one to get. Manufacturing, there are a lot of manufacturing companies that are participating," said Kal Fakhreddin, a project manager with Workforce WindsorEssex.

"Health care and social care, that's also high demand ... engineering, technology, those are industries that are very much on the rise. So those are good places to showcase."

In the trades, more than 700,000 people will retire over the next five years across North America, said Howie Brox, a recruiter with LiUNA.

LiUNA Local 625 showcased its apprentice training centre.

Kal Fakhreddin is a project manager with Workforce Windsor-Essex. She says more than 500 students from all four school boards participated in Workforce Windsor-Essex's industry day.
Kal Fakhreddin is a project manager with Workforce Windsor-Essex. She says more than 500 students from all four school boards participated in Workforce Windsor-Essex's industry day.

Kal Fakhreddin is a project manager with Workforce Windsor-Essex. She says more than 500 students from all four school boards participated in Workforce Windsor-Essex's industry day. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

"We find that when students get to experience, not just hear what we have to say, but get to touch and feel and see what goes on, they understand that this is very much like a campus," Brox said of the training centre, where students on Thursday were shown skills by current LiUNA apprentices.

"It's very much like a college or a university environment. You have classrooms and you have real, real-time learning laboratories.

Canada's infrastructure spending is growing, Brox said, and with that comes a lot of work — and a lot of opportunity — over the next seven to 10 years for new graduates and people looking to get into the trades.

"[It] leaves a hole … we're desperately looking to fill with young, fresh, competent men and women who are willing to pick up the mantle and now keep progressing," Brox said.

"The opportunity for a young mind right now to consider a career in the skilled trades gives them a not just a runway, but it's a runway with a destination for an entire life."

Brox said they are encouraging more people to get into the trades, including women: "It doesn't matter where you come from or what you thought you were capable of."