Executive Director of HIEC-Apprentice Search.com
Through mentorship and development, ApprenticeSearch.com is filling the gaps and empowering upcoming trade professionals.
Across Canada, skilled tradespeople are in high demand to fill well-paying jobs and build rewarding careers. The most recent projections estimate about 700,000 skilled trades workers are expected to retire by 2028, growing the need to recruit and train thousands more.
The goal of ApprenticeSearch.com is to fill that gap by intentionally connecting employers with talent. The platform, launched by the non-profit HIEC more than 20 years ago, supports job seekers and employers with free services and programs to increase participation in the apprenticeship pathway.
Breaking down the barriers to entry
There are complex barriers for underrepresented groups pursuing a meaningful career in the skilled trades. A recent study by ApprenticeSearch, Exploring Apprenticeship Training and Support Needs for Underrepresented Ontario Job Seekers, found that overwhelmingly, having access to mentorship was one of the most referenced supports requested: 83 per cent of those with access to mentorship said they wouldn’t have been able to succeed on their path without the support of their mentor, and 92 per cent said they learned something from their mentor they wouldn’t have been able to learn otherwise.
Kelly Hoey, Executive Director of ApprenticeSearch.com, notes that the results from this research confirmed what the organization already knew through its experience supporting people along the skilled trades pathway — that mentors help navigate an often fragmented skilled trade and apprenticeship system.
“We also know that mentorship doesn’t only come from an individuals’ employer. Mentors can come from a variety of avenues – especially for individuals from groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in the trades,” said Hoey.
Understanding the need for invaluable mentorship experiences, ApprenticeSearch has integrated informal and formal mentorship opportunities into a number of their programs.
ApprenticeSearch.com’s Women in Skilled Trades Peer Mentorship Group is a virtual networking event for women at any stage in their skilled trades journey. The research found that underrepresented groups often cite a lack of access to a personal network as a barrier to finding employment in the skilled trades. The group ensures that women have direct access to mentors and industry professionals through panel discussions, speaker series, and one-on-one conversations.
The organization’s popular Gateway to the Trades program is a part-time, facilitated skilled trades exploration and employment-readiness program that equips participants – many of whom have experienced barriers to pursuing an apprenticeship — with the skills and connections to find meaningful employment in the skilled trades. In addition to virtual modules (including numeracy skills for the trades and health and safety) and wrap-around supports (such as trade-related tools and clothing), participants receive mentorship from the program’s experienced facilitators and guest speakers.
“Our facilitators have decades of skilled trades experience that they share with participants,” Hoey explains. “And they can provide mentorship in a variety of unique ways, such as spending one-on-one mentoring time with participants to boost their confidence in building the math skills that are required for success in the skilled trades.”
When asked about their experience in the program, one participant explained, “this was a great experience. I am grateful that I came across this program, which [reassured me] that there are authentic, caring people that care for supporting new, up-and-coming potential candidates for the trades.”