Finding skilled workers to properly staff your service department can be challenging. One avenue you may not have explored is looking at organizations like Skills/Compétences Canada (SCC) and SkillsUSA who are out there working hard to help discover the next generation of skilled workers so many industries desperately need — the construction and mining industries included.
We recently spoke with several individuals from SCC and a member of their National Technical Committee. We wanted to better understand how their efforts are helping fill the pool for contractors across North America looking to hire skilled service technicians during a time when candidates are becoming harder and harder to find. No matter where you’re located, hearing what they had to say will give you new insights into how young people view the trades and some of the activities that can help encourage them to join the industry.
What types of questions do young people have about pursuing the skilled trades as a career?
Most young people are unaware of apprenticeship programs and its benefits. Many view this trade as a “lower tech job,” which is inaccurate. There’s a wide variety of career opportunities in this trade — where you go is only limited by the skills you develop.
What do you tell them about a career in the construction/mining field in particular?
Careers in construction offer job stability, growing salaries and expanding opportunities. We also offer information on several jobs in the construction sector including typical duties, education and training, and career opportunities.
How does Skills Canada encourage youth to consider trades jobs like diesel mechanics?
By providing a forum where Canadians can compete at the national level, the Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC) provides hands-on work experience related to skilled trade and technology careers.
SCC also invites thousands of young students to attend SCNC, allowing them to witness the competition and try out various interactive activities. This exposes youth to the many skilled trade and technology career opportunities that are available to them and inspires many to pursue this path.
How has technology changed what heavy equipment technicians do?
Mechanics still need an immense mechanical aptitude, and now need more computer skills and the ingenuity to think outside of the box. Technology has made machines more complex and has also provided technicians with more information. Technicians need to be able to find and understand written information and apply it to the job.
Can you share an example of a program that helps young people interested in the skills trades to be properly prepared?
Our Skills for Success (SFS) program highlights the Nine + One Skills for Success that help youth get a job, progress at their current job or change jobs. We highlight the SFS during the Skills Canada National Competition for students to make the connection between skilled trade and technology careers and the skills that are required. At SCNC, students engage in presentations and interactive activities intended to increase their awareness of the Skills for Success required for skilled trade and technology careers.
In addition, SCC has created educational tools for students to help them develop these important skills such as the Skills for Success Work Ready Youth Program workbooks and the SFS mobile app which profiles over 40 skilled trade and technology careers and provides a summary of the SFS needed for the workplace.
What can construction or mining companies in Canada and the United States do to help with the skills gap effort?
It’s important for construction and mining companies to promote the exciting career opportunities that exist to youth. By joining forces with organizations like SCC, companies allow us to share this message from coast to coast.
How do these companies find the young men and women who compete and are looking for jobs as a heavy equipment mechanic?
Employers can review competition documents with the winners from previous years in the resources and downloads tab on our website. Also, our member organizations have their provincial and territorial competition results hosted on each of their websites.
Can these companies promote skills competitions to encourage youth in their areas to compete? If so, how?
Each of SCC’s 13 member organizations host provincial/territorial skills competitions and have excellent programming to promote skilled trade and technology careers to youth. We encourage companies to reach out to their local member organization for more information on how they can get involved and encourage more youth to participate in these competitions.
ADVICE FROM A COMPETITOR
The work of organizations like Skills Canada is important to understand to help you determine if your business would benefit by partnering or participating in provincial or territorial competitions. Similar state and local competitions are held in the United States as well.
We wanted to find out how these competitions impact the youth who compete. To get an inside look, we worked with Skills Canada to talk with Jack Dupuis, the 2019 WorldSkills silver medalist, to see how SCC helped him secure a rewarding career in the skilled trades.
How did you find out about Skills Canada? What got you interested?
I heard about the provincial/territorial skills competitions at my training center. I decided to look into it and learned that there’s also the Skills Canada National Competition and the WorldSkills Competition. I immediately wanted to take part in this adventure because I’m a competitive person who likes to take on challenges.
How did Skills Canada help you discover your new career?
SCC has given me visibility among employers for whom I have worked and who have helped me personally.
Where are you working now and what types of equipment do you work on?
I work as a workshop technician in the province of Québec. I work on reconditioning hydraulic hammers used on drills, including surface drills.
What types of challenges are your favorite? Can you share an example of solving a real-world problem and the outcome?
I like to work on problems that are difficult to solve and that require troubleshooting to find the solution.
When I face a problem, I analyze the elements and then refer to the manufacturer’s documents to create different hypotheses. I then look for the specific issue by taking different actions. Once done, I analyze my results to determine what the problem is and then take the steps required to resolve it.
If you ran a shop, what would you look for in a technician?
The qualities I would look for in a future technician would be resourcefulness and a drive to excel. I believe that an employee who’s willing to go above and beyond to make things better will move the company in the right direction. When their ideas are heard and applied, the employee will have a sense of belonging to the company, which will give the company good employees that are there for the long term.
What would you say to a young person who’s unsure if this is the career for them?
I would recommend that they think it through by doing an internship to get a better understanding of the training program. I also recommend that they talk to workers who are in that trade in different companies to give them an idea of the different working conditions.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Keeping youth interested in the skills trades is important for the future of our industry — and when young people take on these types of jobs, more often than not they find them to be challenging, rewarding and a long-term career. Learn more about Skills Canada and SkillsUSA to see if your company would like to get involved.
By Volvo CE, Guest Skills/Compétences Canada and Guest Jack Dupuis, 2019 WorldSkills Silver Medalist