Labour Shortages in the Trades

Many more people in the skilled trades are retiring than are entering the system. By 2020, it is estimated that Canada could be short about 1 million workers due to an aging population and declining birth rates (Conference Board of Canada, 2000). The hardest-hit industries will be manufacturing, construction, petroleum production and transportation.

In the next two decades, 40% of new jobs will be in the skilled trades and technologies. In 1998, that number was less than 20% ( Almost 50% of businesses surveyed in 2003 said a shortage of qualified labour was one of the most important issues facing them (Canadian Federation of Independent Business, 2003).

According to the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program, many skilled tradespeople now earn six-figure incomes with excellent benefits. Despite the potential earnings and benefits, youth are not entering the trades in large enough numbers to offset the potential labour shortage.  There are several issues related to this challenge:

  • Negative public perception of the trades ‐ Many young people and their parents view the skilled trades as a last resort option: 42% of Canadian youth claim they are unlikely to consider a career in the skilled trades; 60% of youth said their parents have not encouraged them to consider a career in trades (Source: survey by Canadian Apprenticeship Forum and Skills Canada poll conducted by Ipsos-Reid)
  • Lack of visibility and promotion – 71% of youth said guidance counsellors have not encouraged them to consider skilled trades professions. (Source: survey by Canadian Apprenticeship Forum and Skills Canada poll conducted by Ipsos-Reid) 
  • Journeypersons to Apprentice Ratio: Ontario’s apprenticeship ratios restrict hiring to one apprentice for three journeymen. For many small businesses this presents a challenge since they do not have enough journerypersons to hire on a new apprentice (Source: Support Ontario Youth, TWIG consultations)
  • Relatively low apprenticeship rates – Recent research suggests that only 18% of employers utilize apprentices, largely because they tend to see such programs as costly (Source: Easternontario Knowledge in Society project-

TWIG has been very active with unions and colleges to address this issues, including the development of Toronto's, an apprenticeship brochure for employers, trade forums at local colleges and more. See our solutions.

(The above issues were identified through the above resources in addition to TWIG's consultations with various Trade Unions, Sector Councils, Local Colleges, OYAP, and Youth Organizations)

Related Links:

Skilled Trades Fact Sheet:

Skills Canada: