Good ReadsCalling All Apprentices: CUSW Membership Is Invaluable

Calling All Apprentices: CUSW Membership Is Invaluable

Calling All Apprentices: CUSW Membership Is Invaluable

Ben Routledge is an electrical apprentice and a member of the Canadian Union of Skilled Workers, which represents tradespeople and journeymen, including apprentices.

In a rare dovetailing of provincial school board and national union cooperation Routledge joined the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), in high school. The program allows students, if they are at least 16-years-old and have earned 16 credits, to attend school and to train as registered apprentices concurrently.

Routledge completed his credits while taking apprenticeship training, and part of his training included working in the school board’s maintenance office. There he discovered that he really liked electrical work, so he followed that path.

He joined the CUSW very early in his career, and he found that being in a union helped him find jobs and get good placements. “I really like them—they’ve been really good for me,” he says, before describing some of the work he does with solar panel installations. “It’s interesting working with solar,” he says. “The work is similar from day to day but the technology is really interesting.”

As a new apprentice he might have had doubts about his job prospects, but he says CUSW was invaluable in that regard. “I started working in Milton first, but it was a long way from where I lived.”

With the union’s help he was able to transfer to Newcastle, which was much closer to home, where he worked for about five months. Following that job he worked for another solar panel installer. “The company, through CUSW, offered me a job installing solar panels on roofs.” That job lasted about four months, then Newcastle called him back.

“I’ve been working pretty steadily. Once in a while I get a break, but that’s not bad.”

For a young man just starting out in a construction-related field that’s really good. While some of it is no doubt due to his abilities and work ethic, he is quick to give the union credit. “It’s gone pretty well for me because of them.”

Trades are a growing field and one which, a few years ago, was not often promoted at the high school level.

But there is no doubt that tradespersons are generally more employable than university graduates, and they can work in their chosen field right away. The demand for the skills of an electrician, plumber, fitter, carpenter, mechanic, hairdresser, and about 200 other skilled trades never goes away. The demand for young people to replace the often retiring journeypersons is high.

As CUSW says it well. “With the baby boom generation set to retire, demand for skilled tradesworkers will continue to increase from its already high level…skilled trades really do offer something for everyone.”

Not only are jobs always in the offing somewhere in Canada for trades, but they teach useful life skills too. Learning proper maintenance of a home or car can save a lot of money and prevent many problems.

CUSW explains: “Trades play a key role in our economy and society. They play a part in almost every aspect of the world we live in, including the homes we live in, the buildings we work in and the electrical grid that powers them, the cars we drive and the roads we drive them on, and even the food we eat and how it's prepared.”

Considering trades’ apprenticeship and a nationwide union’s support, that could be direction that leads to success for many of Canada’s young people.

Comments (1)

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Janet Stewart December 27, 2017 9:40 am

CUSW is not just a union for tradespeople. I'm a member too and I am a self-employed professional speaker! I have several colleagues in the training, speaking and writing industries who are also members.