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Building a Career in the Trades

This content is part of our Guide to Education advertising feature and was produced by Great West Digital.
Building a Career in the Trades 677x488
Heavy machinery operators are still in high demand in many industry sectors and are a popular choice for students.

Alberta is changing, diversifying from being known mostly as an oil and gas province, and making strong inroads in technology, healthcare, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. What does this mean for the trades? Is it time to put down the welding torch and pick up a tablet?

Not so fast! While exciting new careers are on the horizon, trades have been around since humans first picked up tools – and for good reasons! You could have the most technologically advanced city on the planet, but people still need to physically build that city. Tradespeople are builders, and that will never change.

Those interested in pursuing a career in the trades have plenty of options. Both the Northern and Southern Institutes of Technology (NAIT in Edmonton and SAIT in Calgary) are renowned for their skilled trades programs which offer technical, hands-on training along with theory and classroom instruction. The offerings from NAIT and SAIT are vast, including but not limited to automotive technician, boilermaker, cabinetry, glazier, heavy equipment technician, welding, agricultural equipment technician, AutoCAD, carpentry, electrician – and many more. NAIT and SAIT also offer apprenticeship programs, which provide the ideal balance of instruction and on-the-job training over a series of years.

These two polytechnical institutions are not the only places offering post-secondary trades instruction. Olds College also offers trades and apprenticeship programs and/or pre-employment certificates in all of the major industry sectors, including welding, heavy equipment, and even motorcycle mechanics. Keyano College offers trades, heavy industrial programs, and courses that encompass carpentry, electrician, mechanic-millwright, plumbing, power engineering, and more.

Investing in post secondary education takes a commitment of both time and money, so it’s natural to feel a little apprehensive about which career path to take during a downturn. To ensure you are on the right track, do some research:

• Arrange to meet with long-term workers in the industry and ask them about the availability of work they have seen during boom and bust cycles. Many post secondary schools can help arrange mentorships or meetings with their industry partners.

• Take a look at your school’s graduation employment rate and see how the rates stack up during past downturns in Alberta. Consistently high rates mean the education received made those grads stand out in the hiring pool above their competition.

• Keep an eye on major infrastructure and private projects in your city. Learn the strategic plan for continued growth where you live. Your city or town council publishes this information. Also keep an eye on new builds in the real estate sector. Projects cannot be built without trades.

• Keep on learning. As Alberta continues to invest in technology and artificial intelligence, those that can apply their trade on a practical level, but also understand the technology that comes into their work (from software to new machinery) will be more employable.

Those interested in a career in trades can learn more by visiting Building Trades of Alberta (BTA), an organization that strives to “meet with government and industry and work on campaigns to give the skilled trades workers in our affiliated locals more jobs, better career opportunities, more rights, and safer workplaces.” BTA is a strong advocate and supports major projects that will help build Alberta’s economy while providing employment for 60,000+ members in 18 skilled trade unions.

A career in trades is a career that helps to build your community, and working through an apprenticeship is a wonderful way to blend learning and employment. Check out the institutions listed above to learn how you can join the many Albertans that enjoy a career in the trades.
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