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Careers in the Skilled Trades Providing Connections Beyond Technology

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Kelly Hoey

Executive Director, Ontario’s original online hub for skilled trades careers since 1999. From local roots to national reach, we connect job seekers and employers with personalized support. Join us in navigating the future of trades careers, where technology and personal touch converge.

Before job sites like Workopolis and Indeed,, released in 1999, was Ontario’s first online matching service for job seekers and employers in the skilled trades. Now offered nationally, provides deeper connections than a job-matching service with over a thousand new users monthly.

Almost 25 years ago, Kelly Hoey, Executive Director of HIEC and, was returning from a career development conference, thinking about the clear gap in support for the skilled trades sector. 

“It was obvious that not enough was being done at the time to support people who wanted to pursue careers in the trades,” said Hoey. “Beyond even the fact that trade jobs weren’t well promoted — once people were even interested in the trades, they didn’t know where to start.” 

People repeatedly brought up a critical barrier to Hoey: job seekers’ difficulty connecting with employers. Many job seekers, especially young people, lacked the networks and connections to find jobs.  

“You can’t start an apprenticeship without an employer, so helping people make that connection seemed like the place to start. In 1998, technology was the way of the future,” continued Hoey. 

In that year, Hoey and her team began exploring and developing, a free online platform to match job seekers with employers hiring in the skilled trades.

“I’ll be honest, I don’t think any of us working on the project knew the difference between a website and a database in 1998, but we all agreed the world was changing quickly, and we wanted to be at the forefront of that change — and to use it for something we felt passionate about.” 

We’re in the interesting position of being a non-profit with a mission to support the skilled trades sector — and also the owners of a technology that we need to keep evolving to meet the needs of our users. officially launched in 1999, offering a simple yet revolutionary solution: a centralized online hub where job seekers could showcase their skills and connect with employers seeking apprentices.

“The response was overwhelming,” recalled Hoey. “We had people registering for the site before we officially launched it. It was evident that we had struck a chord with job seekers and employers struggling to find each other.” quickly evolved from a local website serving the Halton Region in Ontario to a province-wide leader in the skilled trades workforce development space as the platform gained traction. In the following years, Hoey and her team continued to innovate, adding features and refining the user experience. 

“We’re in the interesting position of being a non-profit with a mission to support the skilled trades sector – and also the owners of a technology that we need to keep evolving to meet the needs of our users,” explained Hoey. 

It turns out that one of the needs of’s users is human connection. 

“We see a high volume of users registering every day, and 90 per cent of the job seekers who register with us request individualized support — meaning they’re looking for more than just a technology that matches them to an employer,” Hoey noted. “To help create the conditions for success for our users, we offer personalized support and connections that go beyond the screen. Our dedicated team is here to guide job seekers and employers every step of the way.”

The team includes passionate career development and employment professionals who deliver programs and services that support job seekers and employers who register — as many as over 1,200 new users a month. 

“Job seekers are hearing the message loud and clear — there are opportunities in the skilled trades,” said Hoey. “However, it’s a lot to ask of young people who lack networks, experience, and skills to advocate for themselves to skilled trades employers. Most people who come to us require more than just a simple employer match. They need someone to review their resume to ensure it will stand out to employers or to practice their interview skills to secure a job they’re qualified for. And some people need someone to sit down with them and talk them through what trades jobs are in demand and the steps they need to take to pursue those jobs.” 

According to Hoey, job seekers are not the only ones who want more personalized support. 

“Supporting small employers is a key focus of Almost all of our employer users are small businesses that lack HR departments and the time to recruit effectively. We fill a crucial gap in the hiring process by connecting these employers with eager job seekers.”

The model clearly works. In September 2022, the service went national, bringing its proven model of success to the rest of the country. Since then, the organization has helped thousands connect with employment in the skilled trades. 

“The skilled trades are a hot topic right now, so we take pride in the fact that we’ve been in this space for 25 years, not just following trends but shaping the conversation and making a tangible impact on the lives of countless individuals seeking fulfilling careers in this vital sector,” said Hoey. 

“All of our future investments count on skilled trades professionals, so as we look ahead, we’re excited to continue to expand on our model of leveraging technology, combined with personalized support, to support the skilled trades workforce.” 

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