Skills for success: How COVID-19 has increased demand for skilled trades.
Dec 22, 2021
Original photography of Sarah Murphy using a 3M™ equipment and wearing faceshield.
London Plant Director, Canada Manufacturing and Supply Chain Leader

World Youth Skills Day is a day to recognize the importance of equipping young people with skills for employment and future success. This year, the day holds even greater significance as COVID-19 has disrupted education and training that is essential to career opportunities for Canadian youth. While proving to be a barrier for skilled trades training and youth employment, the pandemic has also highlighted the essential roles of skilled tradespeople. Through pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, many skilled workers were critical to delivering essential services and goods to the public, allowing supply chains to remain open, essential infrastructure to be maintained, and connective technology to be sustained. The pandemic has underscored just how important skilled workers are to us – it is through their skills that society and the economy were able to continue to function.

Despite the integral roles that skilled tradespeople play in society, the economy, and our everyday lives, there are still stigmas surrounding careers in the skilled trades. A university or college level education can be perceived as the most direct pathway to a successful career. This can discourage individuals from pursuing careers in skilled trades, even if their personal interests, strengths, learning styles and career preferences match those of an ideal skilled trades candidate.

The truth of the matter is a career path in the skilled trades offers comprehensive training, paid apprenticeships, competitive salaries and opportunities for continuous learning and growth.

Improving equity in STEM education for Canadians.

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Barriers to youth employment.

According to the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, today’s youth are making slower transitions to the workforce, are more likely to work part-time, and tend to earn less in full-time work than previous generations. The onset of the pandemic has created another challenge for Canadian youth employment with Statistics Canada reporting that employment among youth aged 15 to 24 fell by 101,000 (-4.2%) in April 2021. 1

In particular, consistently higher unemployment rates are reported for visible minority groups in Canada.2 Lack of awareness about career opportunities and apprenticeships, lack of personal support, lack of essential and employability skills, limited connections with employers and financial challenges are just some barriers visible minorities face.

Alternatively, a 2021 Canadian Apprenticeship Forum report indicates that Ontario will need to attract approximately 300,000 new apprentices in more than 50 Red Seal trades over the next decade to keep up with economic growth and rising retirement rates. 3 All this equates to increasing growth and opportunity in skilled trades for the next generation. Action is needed to raise awareness and remove barriers to pursuing skilled trades opportunities for Canadian youth.

Partners in creating opportunities.

As a long-time supporter of skilled trades, I am proud of 3M’s continued partnership with Skills Ontario, an organization supporting skilled trades by destigmatizing the myths that surround skilled trades careers and raising awareness of the opportunities available to today’s youth. With over 140 careers in the skilled trades and technologies, many don’t realize how many opportunities there are in these fields. Through comprehensive programs, events, resources, and partnerships with like-minded organizations, Skills Ontario provides opportunities to explore potential career paths in skilled trades in an engaging, inspiring, and inclusive environment.

"Skilled professionals are crucial to our society. As Skills Ontario is an organization dedicated to empowering youth to consider skilled trade and technology careers, it’s important that we raise awareness of this; because of the work of skilled Canadians working in the construction, industrial, motive power, service, and technology sectors, our economy can continue to grow and develop."

Paul Clipsham, Skills Ontario

Did you know?

In a comprehensive survey of 412 skilled trades workers conducted by Job Talks, the findings concluded that:

  • Despite the stigma associated with construction trades, nearly two-thirds (65%) of the GTA trades rated their job satisfaction between 8 and 10 on a scale of 1-10. The average score was 7.9.
  • Nearly two-thirds of skilled trades workers would strongly recommend the trades to a young person.
  • 81% of the workers enjoy a sense of financial security.

"A skilled trade is for those who want excitement and a desire to build confidence in themselves. There is nothing more rewarding at the end of a day’s work than knowing you are part of the solution; contributing the knowledge, skills and attitude to overcome the challenges and win the day as part of a team. Every day presents a different challenge allowing the opportunity for continued learning."

Paul Ballantyne, Sr. Maintenance Technologist, 3M Canada

Certified Red Seal Machinist

Accessible opportunities for Canadian youth.

Skills Ontario aims to empower youth by providing accessible opportunities through programs, camps, skills based activities, and more. Attendance to all public Skills Ontario events and initiatives are being offered free throughout the pandemic to create equal learning opportunities for all.

Canadians can help break the stigmas surrounding skilled trades by learning more about the opportunities in skilled trades and technologies, and empowering youth with the knowledge and opportunities to explore the possibilities in skilled trades.


  1. The Daily — Labour Force Survey, April 2021 (
  2. Arab, Black, and Southeast Asian Canadians continue to have among the highest unemployment rates in August (
  3. Apprentice Demand: A 2021 Labour Market Information Report Ontario (Canadian Apprenticeship Forum)
  4. Job Talks – Retaining Employees in the Skilled Trades (

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