Ontario’s mobile tech classrooms a pathway to skilled trades education

Monte McNaughton

The Ontario government is taking a significant step towards addressing the labor shortage in the skilled trades industry by investing $5.4 million in the creation of three mobile tech classrooms. These innovative classrooms, developed in partnership with Skills Ontario, will traverse the province, providing students and young individuals with hands-on learning experiences in various skilled trades.

Built and operated by Skills Ontario, these mobile classrooms will be equipped with state-of-the-art learning stations and simulators, offering immersive experiences in electrical systems, welding, crane operation, auto-painting, tire and brake work, heavy machinery, and more. Over the course of three years, these classrooms are projected to engage nearly half a million individuals, helping them explore and discover the diverse opportunities within the skilled trades industry.

The initiative is hailed as a crucial step in bolstering education and promoting the trades. “This initiative is a positive step in our government’s path to supporting and improving education in the trades,” remarked Patrice Barnes, MPP for Ajax. The investment has already yielded promising results, with apprenticeship program registrations increasing by 24-30%. With a demand for an additional 100,000 tradespeople to advance the province’s infrastructure, these mobile classrooms are poised to bridge this gap.

Ian Howcroft

According to Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, “By 2025, one in five jobs in Ontario will be in the skilled trades.” Recognizing the potential of these trades to offer fulfilling, well-paying careers, the government remains committed to investing in innovative programs that expose students to the vast array of opportunities within the 144 trades available.

As Ontario undertakes ambitious infrastructure plans, including the construction of 1.5 million homes by 2031, the need for over 100,000 new skilled trades workers within this decade becomes evident. These three mobile “Trades & Tech Trucks” will embark on a province-wide journey, enabling students to explore trades while engaging with industry professionals. They will also learn about local training opportunities, colleges, and potential employers, creating a holistic view of the industry.

Ian Howcroft, CEO of Skills Ontario, praised the impact of the Trades & Tech Truck program: “This program ignites an awareness of opportunities in the skilled trades and tech field that inspires more young people to pursue these careers.” Last year’s increase in apprenticeship registrations by 24%, including a notable 28% increase among women, attests to the success of the government’s investment in the skilled trades.

The initiative aligns well with the province’s educational goals. “Starting in September 2024, all high school students will take at least one technology education course to create pathways to exciting jobs of the future,” stated Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. These mobile classrooms will serve as a catalyst for success, equipping 150,000 students annually with the critical skills needed for well-paying employment.

Supported by the government’s Skills Development Fund, a $700 million initiative, the mobile tech classrooms signify a transformative approach to skill development. They connect jobseekers with comprehensive training, enabling them to embark on lucrative careers close to home. Launched as a pilot program in 2022, the first truck reached over 40,000 students and young individuals, making its mark across the province.

This Ontario’s investment in mobile tech classrooms stands as a forward-thinking solution to address the skilled trades labor shortage. By providing accessible and engaging experiences, the province aims to equip the workforce of tomorrow with the skills needed to contribute to a thriving industry and economy.