Ontario Virtual Career Expo Target High School Students for Trade Career Opportunities
Build a Dream ‘Trades Week’ networking event will connect students to tradespeople, pathways, employers to build industry exposure and introduce potential career opportunities.
According to Canadian nonprofit Build a Dream, despite the strong demand for workers and the many associated benefits with skilled trades, students continue to leave journeyperson off their career list. Working with educators and industry to shift how students (and their parents) view the trades, the organization is hosting the Build a Dream ‘Trades Week’ on May 17-21, 2021—said to be Ontario, Canada’s largest virtual career expo for high schools students—with the goal to assist families with career planning and help industry build a pipeline of talent needed for future openings.
“A lot of people might be working with incorrect information or they might not even get to see skilled trades in the world around them so that positive association is not always there,” says Nour Hachem-Fawaz, president and founder of Build a Dream. Hachem-Fawaz knows first-hand what exposure to trades can mean: “It is often a single event that can change their entire outlook,” he says.
Feedback from previous Build a Dream expos frequently mention how attendees were not aware of the variety and benefits associated with skilled trades. From that one experience, many say that they are now inspired to seek out new courses as well as co-op and youth apprenticeship opportunities.
“It’s time to give trades the time and attention it deserves and spread awareness about the amazing opportunities available.”
The upcoming event involves two evenings of interactive learning planned for May 19-20. Organizers say students will hear from inspirational journeypersons, find out different ways to connect their learning, receive job-readiness advice and will be able to interact with employers from different industries. The rest of the week, Build a Dream says it will use its blog, podcast and social media channels to push the trades as a career of choice.
Since going digital in 2020, Build a Dream has delivered career expos to 9,000 families across Canada and is using that success to deliver Trades Week. Further, organizers note, there will be free pizza.
“For companies to recruit skilled trades professionals in the numbers they need, we need to engage with families, not just the students themselves. Parents are the number one career influencer so we want them at the table,” says Hachem-Fawaz. Build a Dream will ship DIY pizza kits to 500 families across the province of Ontario and use something very familiar (pizza) to highlight the sometimes unfamiliar: valuable career opportunities are available in skilled trades. The goal, along with enjoying a delicious dinner, is to highlight the number of trades it takes to make a pizza from start to finish; it’s the chef making the dough, the machinist making parts for an oven or pizza box cutting machine, the mechanic who fixed the delivery car or the construction worker who paved the roads.
Build a Dream organizers report that there has been a continuous call from employers, educators and the province to push the trades. In fact, Ontario’s recent budget announcement included the investment of $288.2 million in
2021–22 into the Skilled Trades Strategy. Build a Dream is listening, says Hachem-Fawaz. “It’s time to give trades the time and attention it deserves and spread awareness about the amazing opportunities available,” he adds.
Build a Dream’s ‘Trades Week’ is open to Ontario school board partners with free registration to all students in grades 9-12. Registration provides access to inspirational speakers, job-readiness advice, breakout rooms with industry and employers, career resources, contests and prizes and DIY pizza kits for the first 500 families to register.
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