Older trades still popular at NSCC

Traditional trades at the Nova Scotia Community College are drawing students in with job and money prospects.

NSSC is facing high demand for traditional trades such as electrial work. Image from Wikipedia

Traditional programs offered at the Nova Scotia Community College, such as electrical, plumbing and carpentry are still among the most in-demand trades, says Robert Sampson, academic chair of Trades and Technology at the college's IT campus.

Referring to traditional trades as "service trades," Sampson says one of the reasons they've been so popular is because of work opportunities in Alberta and Newfoundland in oil and gas.

He said some people with in trade work, such as welding, can make $250,000 in a year because of demand.

"Any trade that offers service offers a lot of employment," explains Sampson. "They're very versatile and valuable. In case you can't get work in one field, you can get work in another."

There was a nine per cent increase in trade enrolment in 2006, followed by an eight percent increase in 2007, according to statistics from the School of Trades and Technology at NSCC.

Since then the enrolment pace has been steady for trades at the college, going up two per cent in both 2008 and 2009.

Brian McIssac, a 19-year-old student at the college, is completing a trade in cabinetmaking. He says he's able to work while completing the diploma, making trade school convenient.

McIssac says he'll try cabinetmaking for a couple of years to see if it's what he really wants.

"The job market for cabinetmaking isn't as great right now, or so I'm told. But in the long run it's very promising," he says.

Sampson says the biggest changes deal with technology.

"They're the same old industries, but the level of technology has gone up dramatically," he says.

"The emphasis has really shifted to the environment."

James Kerr, an instructor in environmental engineering at NSCC, said there's been a wait list for the water resource management program for the last two years.

The two-year diploma program, which started in 1991, takes 30 students per year.

As for the length of time it takes to get into traditional trades programs, such as electrical and construction, Sampson says the wait can last two to three years. With these trades being in such high-demand, he says the college is trying to accommodate the number of students in several ways.

Some program sections are available in January, not just September, and some courses have different time schedules including night classes.

"We're thinking of every possible way we can offer the programs," Sampson said.

Changes in trade

As for the age range among students, Sampson said people between 28 and 30 years old used to be a common age for students at NSCC completing traditional trades, but now it's more between 24 and 25 years old along with many high school graduates.

Kerr says he gets a broad range of students and that some are right out of high school, while there are also older people who come back looking for a second career.

He says public interest in the environment is what draws students in. Kerr thinks that the hands-on skills learned at NSCC provide students with an advantage when looking for employment.

"The environment and water resources are in the news so the program is popular," said Kerr.

"We teach the theory but we also give practical hands on experience."

His students gain many generic engineering and technical skills, which lend themselves to other fields, but Kerr says students are finding employment in resource management and with the government as well.

Wayne MacPherson, a teacher in heavy duty equipment repair program at NSCC, says student requirements in trades have changed over the years and that it's not just about them doing "grease work," but work in communications as well.

"They're being evaluated on spelling, evaluated on grammar, evaluated on punctuation and how they write letters. They're expected to write reports . . . whereas before they weren't," said MacPherson. "And the old rules of ‘you have to be big and burly' haven't lasted."



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