Free tuition, manuals and tools to bring new faces into the skilled trades


St. Clair College will host information sessions beginning Tuesday regarding pre-apprenticeship programs as employers try to keep pace with an aging and retiring workforce.

School officials say pre-apprenticeship training is an opportunity to help people interested in trades learn the skills needed to enter the apprenticeship system.

It offers free courses, textbooks, safety equipment and tools.

“We have received funding for this program for the past 14 years,” says Tina Fotopoulos of St. Clair College.

The principal of the Skilled Trades Pre-Apprenticeship School says the school has submitted proposals for 2022 with the aim of receiving funding this year to run the same three programs that were offered last year.

The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development has invested $24 million in pre-apprenticeship training across Ontario in 2021. St. Clair College staff say programs offered in 2022 include:

  • Brick and Stone
  • Truck and Car
  • General Machinist

Fotopoulos tells CTV News that each program has about 20 spots available for students.

“The department would like to attract underrepresented groups, primarily unemployed people, women, indigenous people, people with disabilities, youth, but we certainly want to attract anyone into the program. It’s a great opportunity for everyone,” she says.

Pre-apprenticeship programs include 17 weeks of provincially approved Level 1 apprenticeship training (1st level of trade school in an expanded format), safety training, and other pre-trades training.

A 12-week (420 hour) paid internship in industry follows.

It is open to Canadian citizens and permanent residents and an application package must be submitted for consideration, followed by an interview process.

“I took it and ran with it and it’s been great ever since!”

Natasha Topliffe, 24, recommends the program, saying she discovered it online after wanting to change careers last year.

“It’s an easy solution if you’re unhappy with your career and looking for a change or want to start a career in the trades, this program is perfect for that,” she says.

Topliffe explains the cost savings that compelled her to try.

“That was my biggest thing was if I’m going to make a career change. I looked at the costs and if I went to school and realized I wasn’t happy or had trouble understanding the new material, was it worth it? Topliffe adds. “With this free program, you have nothing to lose.”

“We have to do something and we have to do something fast,” says Jonathan Azzopardi, president of the Canadian Moldmakers Association. “Because apprentices don’t necessarily make a lot of money for companies when they start.”

Azzopardi says 30% of the workforce is expected to retire within five to eight years, which could represent thousands of jobs locally.

“The pre-learning program actually accelerates their ability to become functional employees,” he says.

According to the president of Laval International, a Windsor-based company, “The sooner we can get them (the apprentices) into regular employees and into the industry that we really need to be in, they’ll start to earn money, which means we will in turn put more training, more investment and therefore more money in the hands of the apprentices, so it’s a win-win situation.


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