Monday, October 25, 2010

Skills Work!® Celebrating Skilled Trade and Technological Careers

Welcome, my name is Brian Mullen.  I am excited to have been selected as the next Chair of the Board of Directors for Skills Canada – Ontario.  These continue to be very exciting times for our organization.  I would like to thank Gary Cronkwright for the leadership he provided to the Board over the past two years.  I would also like to thank our Executive Director, Gail Smyth and her remarkable team for their hard work and dedication to the thousands of young people we serve each year. 
Next week, November 1 – 5, is National Skilled Trades and Technology Week.  During this week we will introduce you to six young people from Ontario who will represent Canada at the 2011 World Skills Competition being held in London, UK.  We will include photos from Skills At The Park, an event being held to celebrate the accomplishments of these six competitors before they take stage at the international competition.  The Hon. John Milloy, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, and the Hon. Leona Dombrowsky, the Minister of Education, will be speaking at this event.
National Skilled Trades and Technology Week is also an opportunity to recognize the importance of these career choices.  I would like to share with you some very inspiring comments from a conversation one of our staff had with Peter Sweeney, President of St. Joseph’s International Outreach Program (IOP).  From Haiti to Uganda to Yemen, the IOP has partnered with developing countries since 1986 to provide training in current medical and nursing techniques, transport basic medical supplies, and make donated equipment operational.  Read their blog here.
Peter was part of an envoy that recently travelled to Haiti to continue their partnership with the Haitian Ministry of Health to support two world-class hospitals and provide care to people whose lives have been forever changed following the earthquake that rocked the nation.
When asked about the team of professionals that would be assisting in this particular trip, Peter explained that there would be several healthcare specialists, including doctors and nurses.  After a brief pause, he said “But you know what, they simply cannot deliver care in a building that is not functional or without proper, working equipment.   It takes the efforts of many engineers, skilled tradespeople and technologists on our team to provide those health care workers with the facilities and equipment they need in order to make a difference.”
There are probably hundreds of similar stories from the rescue missions following that devastating earthquake.  And each story illustrates the importance and need for qualified skilled workers not only in Canada, but around the world. 
At home we need to ensure that there is enough talent available so our partners from industry can grow their businesses in a very competitive global market.  The call to action is for all of us to celebrate the success of the talented young people, like the team we’ll introduce to you soon, who have made a very important career choice.  Who knows where their skill will take them?
Our team will continue its mission to inform thousands of students throughout the province of Ontario each year about careers in the skilled trades and technologies through our innovative programs.  Please visit our website to learn more about these programs.  We also have a collection of interesting stats and facts about skilled trade and technological careers available on our Facebook page.
If you have a story to share with us, our team would love to hear from you.  Send your stories here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Skills Work!® On The Road - Woodbridge Office

September is always the busiest time of year for the Liaison staff at Skills Canada – Ontario.  About two weeks after school starts, the floodgates open, and requests for in-school presentations come pouring in.   Add a busy season of Networking Dinners for Women, and fall zooms by as quickly as the lines painted on the 401!

I’m now entering my fifth year delivering presentations about careers in the trades and technologies to students in Grades 7 to 12.  I love it.  The presentation changes only on an annual basis, but the kids are always different.  The schools are always different.  And like anyone in my position would have done, I’ve acquired favourites.

I visited one of these favourite schools last week – the Oasis Skateboard Factory.  The program is part of the Toronto District School Board’s Oasis Alternative Secondary School and housed at the Scadding Court Community Centre at Bathurst and Dundas in Toronto.  Designed for TDSB students who are 16 and over and classified as “at risk,” the program finds students designing, creating and marketing their own skateboard. 

The designs are original student creations, from the paper sketch all the way to the painted wood product.  In past, students have even obtained partnerships with community businesses to help fund their projects. By the end of the program, students are ready to market and sell their skateboards to the community.  Aside from the life skills obtained, the students earn high school credits in arts/media, business and English. 

You can define these kids as “at risk” in as many ways as you like, but one glance in that classroom and you see the talent, intelligence, artistry and entrepreneurial spirit.  They’ve regained a passion for life and learning, they love what they are doing and they realize very quickly how passion translates into a good living. 

In short, they’re the perfect audience for a presentation about careers in trades and technologies.  They were fascinated and engaged.  I spent over an hour with them on a 45-minute presentation.  Give them a few years, and these kids will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Devon Turcotte
Lead Liaison Officer
Social Media Coordinator

Information on the Oasis Skateboard Factory:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ms. Skills - From The Executive Director

Skills Work!®  

For over 20 years Skills Canada-Ontario has been the voice delivering the message to young people across the province that skilled trade and technological careers really do work.

Our mission, to promote careers in the skilled trades and technologies as viable, first choice career options, is driven by two economic terms that ultimately shape our workforce – supply and demand. 

On the demand side, there is plenty of research telling us that there is a need for workers in all sectors that we promote, including construction, motive power, service, industrial and technology.  On the supply side, we know that young people are not choosing skilled trades and technologies careers, which will leave a skill gap as a result of an ageing workforce.

The challenge for our organization is that careers in the skilled trades and technologies are perceived to be boring, dirty and low-paying.  To overcome these myths and misconceptions, our team continues to design and deliver programs that provide young people with the opportunity to experience first-hand the joy and reward that can come from pursuing a skilled trade or technological career.

The cornerstone of our programs is the Ontario Technological Skills Competition.  This three-day event showcases the talent and passion of the students that compete in more than 60 skilled trade and technology contest areas.

For the other 362 days of the year our team is actively travelling across province igniting the minds of young people through our other, yet equally important, programs. 

The in-school presentation program continues to reach thousands of students in both elementary and secondary schools that are affiliated with Skills Canada – Ontario.  Many more young women are considering a career in the skilled trades and technologies as a result of our “Skills Work!® for Women” Networking Dinner program and our Young Women’s Conferences.  Our Cardboard Boat Races continue to make a big splash in each community we visit.

Our newest initiative is a social media campaign.  The goals of this campaign are to increase the number of people we reach each year, enhance our audiences’ understanding of our mission and award-winning programming, and finally, to further position Skills Canada - Ontario as the voice for careers in the skilled trades and technologies. 

As the Executive Director of this incredible organization I would like to issue two challenges to those who will be following us on this blog and the other social media tools we have created.

The first is to consider how skilled trades and technologies impact your life each day.  I am sure that each of you will be able to come up with several examples of how critical these careers are in both our personal and professional environments.

The second challenge is to encourage you to become engaged in our social media campaign.  Comment on our blog.  Retweet our tweets.  Follow us on Facebook.  And finally, recommend us to a young person, parent, educator, or someone in your personal network that may benefit from being involved with Skills Canada – Ontario.

Skills Work!®  Let us show you how.
Gail Smyth