Future Building gives students hands-on construction experience

Carolyn Butterworth heard that the construction industry is going to need 160,000 new workers. So the Grade 8 teacher at Whitchurch Highlands Public School north of Toronto took her students to Future Building, a job fair organized by the Ontario Construction Secretariat in Toronto.

“Many of the students are interested in the trades,” she said. “They know that the work force will be very difficult to enter when they are done high school.”

Butterworth made her comments Wednesday in an interview with DCN at Future Building at the Better Living Centre on the Canadian National Exhibition grounds. Future Building wraps up Thursday.

She noted the event gives students hands-on experience.

“They are exposed to all different types of jobs in the trades,” she said. “They really like the hands-on stuff. I actually have some girls who have tried welding, who would never have had that opportunity, unless they decided to take it in high school, which I’m sure they probably aren’t.”

OCS is expecting about 8,000 students to attend over three days, said Sean Strickland, chief executive officer for the organization, which includes representatives from government, unions and general contractors. “It’s very different from traditional career fairs where kids go to a booth and get a brochure,” Strickland said. “Here they actually get to cut some glass, weld some pipe, they get to set some tile, they get to walk an I-beam, they get to lay brick, they get to hammer and cut some wood and work with metal.”

John Dametto is in the electrical trade and currently teaches shop at West Credit Secondary School in Mississauga. Along with another teacher, he brought 39 shop students to Future Building, to “convince students that trades are the way to go.”

He said it’s “great” that they get hands-on experience and it helps reinforce what he tells his students.

Exhibitors included unions representing a variety of skilled construction trades, including carpenters, iron workers, welders, crane operators and boilermakers.

“We get teachers who are interested in supplying information to their students,” said Blair Allin, health and safety and upgrading instructor at International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 128, who was manning his union’s booth at Future Building. “I would think any youth that is looking for employment in any occupation should seriously consider becoming a welder. If you look at all the different construction trades at this trades fair, whether it be boilermakers, pipefitters, iron workers, sheet metal workers, millwrights, they all require welders. And that is a skill that you can use anywhere in the world.”