Josh Bell, 19, navigates through Barrie Welding and Machine with familiar ease. He’s worked the machines here longer than he’s had a driver’s license.
“My mom was dropping me off,” Bell chuckled.
In high school, Bell received a brochure from the school board alerting him to its Precision Metal Cutting Program. It is an offshoot of the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) and was created by local manufacturers who need general machinists, tool and die makers, and mould makers.
“It’s very difficult to find young people that are interested in the trades anymore,” said Adam Smith, operations manager at Barrie Welding. “This is an avenue to gain access to the kids that are already excelling at it within school.”
Skilled trade workers are in huge demand in North Simcoe. Manufacturers in that region are looking to fill 110 positions, said Chris Edwards, president of Weber Manufacturing Technologies in Midland.
Weber is turning work away because they don’t have enough staff.
“I’m running (job) ads constantly. We still can’t fill all the positions we have,” Edwards said.
Smith calls it a “win, win situation.” Simcoe County manufacturers get quality staff who are eager to learn and the students gain full-time jobs in a highly in-demand field.
“It’s a huge jump start for young people,” Smith said. “It helps you avoid some of the debt that’s involved and you’re learning on the job, so you’re actually getting paid.”
Today, Bell has a full-time job in his chosen career, has invested in his family’s Coldwater farm and has started a retirement savings plan.