Visitors at last month's Kempenfest may have noticed a space where everyone seemed more interested in learning and networking than people watching or shopping.
“The employers and other organizations at our boot camp volunteered their time to come and act as mentors, and to share their resources with our participants,” said Kevin Graham, provincial director of Tools in the Trade Boot Camp, which helps people looking to start a new career.
Tools in the Trades, a government-funded program, offers a free one-day training event in communities across Ontario to introduce people to the skilled trades. These include workshops in electrical, plumbing, HVACM, millwright, and transportation.
“This was our second year participating in Kempenfest. It is a wonderful festival and we were overwhelmed by the attention and interest that our program received again this year," Graham added.
Graham told BarrieToday that, at times, they had four or five people waiting to speak to one of their staff to get more information about the program and how they can get involved.
“From general interest, to employers, to educators, everyone was keen to learn more," he said.
Graham celebrates the fact that, even though it was held on a long weekend, the boot camp was attended by a full house of participants.
“It is encouraging to see people willing to take a day of their spare time to up-skill and take advantage of this amazing program," he added.
At the Tools in the Trades Boot Camp, participants experienced what it will be like working in that particular trade by having the opportunity to use the same tools that they would on a job site.
“Our instructors are all skilled trades professionals who have made their living in the trades," Graham said.
Every boot camp hosts an 'Employer Panel,' where local employers come and speak to participants about what they look for when hiring, what their personal journey has been in the trades, and to advise of any job opportunities in their companies.
“Having the employers there is key, as they provide real world advice and have the opportunity to engage with participants to get a feel for if they would be a good fit in their company," he added.
Graham said the camps help to open doors by educating participants not only on specific trade related skills, but also by teaching them Essential Employability Skills, such as workplace etiquette, resume writing, interview skills, financial responsibility, etc.
“Service Canada often comes and shares information on programs and grant offerings, which are available to both apprentices and employers," he said.
Graham describes Tools in the Trades as a stepping stone for those interested in a career in the skilled trades, and he believes the program is helping the provincial mandate to close the skilled trades gap.
“The program can be life-changing for many and all people, including Indigenous, newcomers to Canada, women, or people simply looking for an exciting new career," he said.
Between April 1, 2023 and March 31, 2024, Tools in the Trades will be hosting 20 camps, which are open to the public and 20 to students at high school partners.
For more information about Tools in the Trades, visit click here.