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The workforce is a lot like high school. You have the popular careers that get all the attention, and the careers that are often overlooked but hold so much promise. The skilled trades industry is practically the latter, and it’s seeing an incredible demand for young talents.

Trades range from construction to the hospitality sector. They include hair dressing, masonry, and cooking — nearly anything that requires a hands-on skill. The beautiful thing about these professions is that they’re something you can do on the side, or as a full-time career, whichever works for you. And high school is the perfect place to enter this sector.

Many high schools have programs that teach skills students can apply to a trade. The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) works closely with high schools to provide co-op placements and a more intimate training experience for the field.

Julian Da Silva Silveira is a grade 12 student who’s been involved in OYAP while attending Central Technical School in Toronto. He’s been preparing for the electrical trade. “This program would be great to put on a résumé,” he says. “An office job you can’t really apply to everyday life. But for trades you can work around your house and save money. Instead of hiring an electrician to come work on something, I can do it myself.”

Plumbing is another area students should look into when considering trades. Andrew De Sousa, a plumbing student at Central Tech, notes the different facets he can get into. “For the first five years I plan on doing as much learning as I can,” he says. “From there, if you have your license, you can go onto sales or you can work for big supplying companies, giving input on better products … there’re a lot of options.”

Most students would rather get their hands dirty outside a cubicle. The satisfaction of starting something and seeing it finished is a reward in itself. “I’ve made this,” says Caleb Bolychuk, an OYAP carpentry student at Central Tech. “I’ve assembled this right, and it’s just satisfying to see what you completed instead of just a stack of papers.”

According to Lucio Stavole, curriculum leader of construction at Central Tech, one skilled trade isn’t necessarily in higher demand than the other. Instead it depends on which stage a project is on. “One employer might be busy this week, but next week it’ll be very slow,” he says. Among the co-op placements Stovole discussed were construction, automotive, carpentry, hair dressing, and restaurant services. “(The OYAP students) have graduated or are about to graduate. They come back to school to get that specific training, and they go off to work,” says Stavole. If the employers like how you work and hire you, your co-op hours may go to your apprenticeship.

“Some people might go on to university and come out more broke than they went in. Trades can make you money while you study what you love and give you a running start on your way to a career. As Bolychuk put it, “It’s like playtime with a cheque at the end.”

Photo: Hans Hansen/Thinkstock

After high school, skilled trades