The Canadian government launched a new campaign on Jan. 31 to help recruit the next generation of skilled craftspeople, including in the electrical trade.
“As Canada experiences more shortages in the skilled trades, it is more important than ever to reach young Canadians from all backgrounds and show them how the trades offer rewarding and high-paying careers: careers that allow you to earn while you learn on the job,” said Matt Wayland, executive assistant to First District International Vice President Tom Reid and Canadian director of government relations. Wayland also served on the campaign’s advisory committee, appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“The IBEW in Canada has grown our national political action program over the last number of years thanks to support from our local union business managers and their PAC members taking an active role,” Reid said. “The IBEW is a trusted source in Ottawa and appointments such as this are a testament to the good work we continue to do together across the First District.”
About 700,000 skilled trades workers are expected to retire between 2019 and 2028, according to recent estimates, creating an ever-growing need to recruit and train thousands of workers to replace them. With Canada still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, skilled tradespeople will continue to be in high demand. According to the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, an average of 75,000 new apprentices will need to be hired in each of the next five years in order to meet the demand for skilled journeypersons in Red Seal trades.
“Canada’s workforce needs more skilled trade workers. They have expertise and skills that are essential to our economy and our way of life. When Canadians are contemplating a new career, we want them to consider entering the skilled trades and to understand the exciting, well-paying opportunities that they present,” said Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough.
About one in six Canadians work in the skilled trades. In 2018, half of all journeypersons who had completed a Red Seal apprenticeship program in the top 14 Red Seal trades five years earlier were earning an annual income greater than $68,750. Some even earn more than similarly situated graduates of university master’s programs. Despite these facts, just one in ten 15-year-old students definitely plans to pursue a trades career, according to a study. And people from equity-deserving groups, like women and Indigenous people, continue to be underrepresented.
“There’s a draught coming of skilled trades because there’s been a drive for college only for the past 20 years,” Wayland said. “These careers have been almost shunned by parents and counselors. That’s why we want to reach those influencers as well as the youth in their care.”
The $6 million campaign includes commercials and advertisements on social media targeting teenagers as young as 12 to those in their twenties. The social media platforms include the youth-friendly TikTok, SnapChat, Twitch, YouTube and Instagram. It also ran as part of CBC Radio-Canada’s Olympic coverage.
The campaign targets a variety of skilled trades, from electricians to cooks to hair stylists. It also includes a comprehensive website,, where interested applicants can get all the information they need, from how to join to financial aid. There is even a quiz to see which trade is best for them.
The advertising campaign was developed with insights and contributions from the advisors, including Wayland. Part of what they did was convene a focus group made up of youth from Western, Central and Eastern Canada as well as Quebec.
“We wanted to find out what they think of the skilled trades and how they got their information,” Wayland said.
The campaign is also targeting underrepresented groups like women and Indigenous people.
“We’re definitely looking to diversify. It’s good for us as well as the contractors, and it just makes for a better organization,” Wayland said.
The ongoing campaign is the only national one of its kind, said Wayland, which allows leaders to learn from the first round and then make improvements as needed.
“I can’t speak highly enough of my fellow advisors,” said Wayland, who was the only Red Seal member of the committee. “We asked some tough questions and everybody listened. It was about doing what’s right and making sure the campaign is a success. I’m humbled and proud to be a part of it.”