Skilled Trade School Options in Canada

By going to a skilled trade school, you can learn how to perform work that's active, satisfying, and in real demand.

This is the kind of career path that often leads to enticing job opportunities. They can allow you to earn a comfortable living, and provide a feeling of accomplishment every day since you get to see real results from your efforts.

4 Powerful Skilled Trade Sectors Worth Investigating

Here's something to think about: Over the coming decades, as many as four out of every 10 new jobs in Canada could be in a sector related to the skilled trades.* One big reason why is that many current tradespeople are nearing retirement age, which is leading to a need for more Canadians to get trades training. BC, for instance, is facing a situation in which about two-thirds of the existing skilled trades workforce is over 45 years old.**

The circumstances are much the same in many other provinces, meaning that it's important that more people enter trade school. Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta, for example, are all regions where shortfalls of qualified tradespersons may occur in the years ahead.

The good news is that this situation offers potential for almost any Canadian who loves working with his or her hands and wants a real chance at a stable, enjoyable, and good-paying career. More college-level pre-apprenticeship programs are being created than ever before. And that makes it easier to get your foot in the door since you can learn the basics at school before approaching employers about making you a paid apprentice.

With trade school as your entry point, you can greatly maximize your chances of becoming a journeyperson with a Red Seal endorsement on your trade certification. Then, you could be in prime position to create the kind of life that exceeds your own expectations.

So, as you explore your career options, take a look at the potential offered by these four main areas of the skilled trades:

1. Construction Trades

Did you know that more than seven percent of all Canadian workers are employed in the nation's construction sector, which consists of over 300,000 companies?*** That's the compelling reality. In BC alone, about 196,000 people work in construction.** And in places like Ontario and Quebec, that number is even higher.

Careers in this sector usually involve some aspect of building, repairing, or maintaining structures or equipment related to homes, commercial properties, or institutional or industrial facilities. A few example trades that stand out include:

  • Carpentry—People who love working with wood are well-suited to becoming carpenters or cabinetmakers. But lightweight steel is another material that some carpenters use, especially if they're involved in building very large structures or forms for foundations. It's the type of trade that can offer a ton of variety, flexibility, and good pay, especially if you become a supervisor or contractor.
  • Electrical workQualified electricians are in high demand in many areas of Canada. In fact, by 2016, as many as 45,000 new electricians may be needed across the country.**** Plus, it's a trade that offers multiple pathways. For example, you might choose to become a residential and commercial electrician, an industrial electrician, or a powerline technician.
  • HVACThe Canadian heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration industry is home to well over 1,000 businesses.*** Almost every new building needs to have HVAC equipment installed by a skilled technician. Many aging buildings require renovation or retrofitting in order to make use of more energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment. And just about every building owner needs to have something like a furnace, heat pump, or air conditioner serviced from time to time.
  • Plumbing—It's hard to go wrong by pursuing a career as a plumber. After all, the pipes and equipment that give us access to water and all of its uses are fundamental to the way of life Canadians are accustomed to. Plus, this trade can be very lucrative, particularly if you own a contracting business.

2. Motive Power Trades

We all have to get from place to place safely. And everybody counts on the transportation of physical goods. In Canada, we are especially reliant on the machines that move people and products. Just think about how large the nation's landmass is yet how few people are spread over most of the country. Canadians and merchandise must often travel huge distances to get to their final destinations. That's why the tradesmen and women in this sector are so crucial. Here are two of the most prominent trades related to motive power:

  • Automotive serviceIn 2013 alone, more than 31.7 million cars and trucks were registered in Canada.† Every vehicle requires regular maintenance. And many cars eventually require repairs due to things like normal wear and tear or unfortunate collisions. That's why so many automotive service shops exist. In 2012, over 22,600 of them employed auto mechanics and technicians.‡
  • Truck driving—The workforce in this trade is expected to grow by nearly 200,000 additional drivers between 2012 and 2017.**** That means now is probably a great time to pursue your commercial driver's license (CDL) and start experiencing all of the advantages of having a career on the road.

3. Industrial Trades

Most skilled tradespeople in this sector work in the manufacturing industry, which employed more than 1.7 million Canadians in 2013.† But a lot of jobs can also be found in other industries like forestry, agriculture, mining, and oil and gas extraction and distribution. In fact, the industrial sector might just have the largest variety of different trades. However, one stands out:

  • Welding—This is easily one of the most essential trades in this sector. From shipbuilding to the construction of pipelines or underwater structures, welders play a crucial role in keeping Canada moving forward. Plus, a career in welding can come with opportunities to make a high income and perform work that's genuinely exciting.

4. Service Trades

All sorts of specialty trades exist that don't necessarily fit into one of the other sectors. In fact, more than 2.7 million Canadians were employed in a service trade in 2013.† This option can provide the chance to be skilled at something that few others ever think to pursue but that has its own distinctive advantages. For example, two service trades you may find success in are:

  • Locksmithing—Keeping property, people, and privacy safe usually requires having a robust system of locks or other control mechanisms that deter thieves, those with prying eyes, or those who would do harm. So locksmiths are incredibly important. And they often enjoy their work and the benefits they receive.
  • Gunsmithing—Firearms represent another type of deterrent to would-be criminals. And, of course, police and military rely on them as a last-resort measure for keeping themselves and others safe. But guns are also used by a lot of Canadians for having fun within a sporting context. As a gunsmith, you can be part of a special trade that's all about designing, manufacturing, embellishing, or repairing different kinds of firearms—from pistols to rifles to shotguns.

Move Forward Right Now

Why not find a skilled trade school in your region that offers the type of program you're eager to know more about? Simply search by your postal code using the convenient school locator above!

Main Sources

* Ontario College of Trades, website last visited on January 6, 2015.

** BC Construction Association, website last visited on April 7, 2017.

*** BuildForce Canada, website last visited on April 7, 2017.

**** Canadian Chamber of Commerce, website last visited on January 6, 2015.

Statistics Canada, website last visited on January 6, 2015.

Industry Canada, website last visited on January 6, 2015.

Red Seal Program, website last visited on April 10, 2017.