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Tapping the “Feeder Lanes”

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Tapping the “Feeder Lanes”

Where do we get the workers? Colleges have been providing our industry with workers for many years. In fact, this was obvious very recently when we toured manufacturers in Waterloo, ON as part of the CKCA National Forum. A number of attendees to the forum commented that they had graduated from Conestoga College. Its obvious that Conestoga College, located in Waterloo,  has done a great job of training and then feeding our industry with trained candidates. But given the shift in the employment market, it’s now even more important to engage with colleges to tap those “feeder lanes” when the opportunities present.

There are many ways to do this and a great example is an initiative Conestoga College started called “Jill of All Trades” which works to introduce students Grades 9-12 to the trades. This program is gaining traction and Cambrian College recently started the program as well.

We spoke to Joni Jean, Chair, Schools of Engineering & Technology and Trades & Apprenticeship at Conestoga College, who explained more about the program.

Jill of All Trades (JOAT) is a Conestoga College initiative, which Conestoga started about 8 years ago. (They were unable to run the event during the pandemic.) The college invites approximately 225 young women from local high schools to participate in the full-day event. This includes a keynote, followed by the opportunity to participate in three hands-on workshops (15 different workshops, including woodworking are typically available) throughout the day, which are led by mentors, many of whom are female. The JOAT videos can found on the following webpage. Be sure to check out the Jill of all Trades video (dated 2018), its a great visual of what takes place.

Conestoga recently trademarked the name and logo in both Canada and the United States. With the support of a national sponsor, the college is providing resources so other colleges, like Cambrian, so they can offer their own JOAT event. Conestoga’s goal is to run events across Canada at 25 separate institutions in 2025, so there will be a handful of events this year, ten or so next year, and so on.

The opportunity lies in the fact the colleges are always seeking sponsors for programs like this as well as people who can assist in delivering these unique programs. In exchange, you get a chance to meet with a demographic you may not otherwise have and you can plant some seeds. While we know students coming from college level are most suitable as employees, we also have to promote our industry to the younger generation who know little to nothing about the trades. Jill of all Trades is focussed on women in the trades, but even so, it’s a successful program you can get involved with.

But that’s not all, many colleges are looking for volunteers to sit on their Program Review Committees as well as participate in their co-op programs and offer placements, plus there are other ways to engage (watch the video presentation with Joni Jean). But one thing you may not have considered is that colleges are suffering from the labour shortage too. Which means they are looking for teachers from the industry. If you can afford a small amount of time on a regular basis to commit to teaching, there’s no better way to meet your future employees.

If you have a local college with programs that can feed your business, reach out to them and see how you can strengthen those ties. Remember, it’s not just woodworkers we need in the industry, so don’t rule out other faculties.

Recently CKCA visited Conestoga College and we met with the Faculty of Design students. It was a great afternoon and whether or not those students knew about kitchen design as a career option – they sure do now!

Watch the presentations: