Randstad Canada HR Blog

Skilled Trades Jobs Are "Knowledge" Jobs

Posted by James Rubec on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 @ 11:33 AM

Last night, Randstad Canada's President Tom Turpin, entered into a conversation with Amanda Lang on CBC's Lang & O'Leary Exchange about the skills gap, how Canadians perceive the skilled trades and what a knowledge job really is. 

Tom Turpin - Skills Gap

You can watch the interview on CBC News, here, but I wanted to highlight one exchange between Turpin and Lang.

To a question about the value of trades jobs, "We have this conundrum, we know we want knowledge jobs that can’t be outsourced where wages don’t progressively get lower and yet we have this situation where our kids are supposed to go to college take a skilled trade and become something very mechanical and applied. These seem like totally different career prospects to me, what is the message we’re supposed to send to young people?” Lang asked. 

Turpin replied, "I think they aren’t as dichotomous as they might seem. If you look at it, I mean, we’re in building someone needs to build it; someone needs to maintain it; all of the trades from the bottom to the top. Infrastructure can’t be outsourced. No one is taking this building to India, building it there and bringing it back."

Tom brought up a really interesting point highlighting a schism between Canadian's perception of education, training,  skilled labour and university training. Trades jobs were the first “knowledge” jobs in society. Masons built roads and buildings, welders built ships and cars and today technical mechanics and skilled tradespeople are building the future economy of Canada and will over the next 20-years construct over $300 billion in capital spending for Canadian businesses and municipalities.

Sure a four-year degree has value and even further education has even more value - but that doesn't take away from the fact that it can take an enormous amount of training, testing and time to become a tradesperson.

If we can’t call skilled trades’ jobs “knowledge” jobs we’re doing it wrong. Becoming a journeyman takes, in some trades like for electricians, 8,000 hours of on the job work – getting paid 40-60% of the wage you’ll make as a journeyman. Tack on three years of classes, tests and certifications and you’re talking more than 15,000 hours of training and learning.

Of course, you might be working with wires, or pipes instead of a keyboard and flowcharts – but let’s stop denigrating skilled trade’s jobs as something lower than getting university degree because you might get your hands dirty and wear steel toes  at work.

The reason our study shows negative perceptions is because of this conversation and questions like Lang’s. Trades jobs are knowledge jobs and they always have been.

Canadians might disagree with me. 

From Randstad's Labour Trends Study: Lack of education, negative perceptions widening the gap

According to the study, Canadian workers believe that education and perception are core reasons that have led to today’s skills shortage. Four in five (79%) survey respondents stated they feel a lack of knowledge in skilled trades has led to less Canadians considering them a career option, while more than three-quarters (76.6%) felt that a perception of skilled trade work being less respected and more old fashioned in comparison to ‘white collar’ work has led to less interest for Canadians desiring these types of roles. 

Ontarians (69.4%) most frequently stated that they experienced pressure by family to pursue more traditional ‘white collar’ careers when in school, while Quebecers experienced the least amount of familial intervention (52.2%).

Is a university degree as valuable as a journeyman's 15,000 hours of training? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @RandstadCanada


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Tags: James Rubec