Remember back in the day when a fender bender required only basic fixes? Now a simple rear-ender might break your backup cam, which is connected to your head unit display, while also doing a number on your automated steering assist. That means diagnostics and repairs aren’t just mechanical, but digital. And today’s tradespeople need a whole new set of skills to thrive.
It sounds like a challenge, but it’s actually a huge opportunity. As baby boomers retire, an unprecedented number of jobs are opening up: according to Statistics Canada and the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, over 167,000 new apprentices will be needed by 2024. Not to mention, increased technological know-how means that today’s tradespeople have more options when it comes to changing careers and moving into new industries.
With the right capabilities, any career in the skilled trades can be yours for the taking. Here are 11 of the best trades jobs, according to the Industry Training Authority (ITA) — and the BCIT programs designed to prepare you for them.
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As cars grow more sophisticated, skilled automotive technicians are a must-have. The full-time Automotive Technician program at BCIT spans four years, granting you a BC Certificate of Apprenticeship and a Certificate of Qualification upon graduation, along with Red Seal endorsement to show you’re ready for work across Canada. For a shorter path to professional experience, there’s the 30-week foundation program, or the Automotive Service Technicians and Operations program which builds both technical and business skills over four terms and two co-ops.
If you love working with your hands and are known for your versatility and craftsmanship, then this is an excellent fit. BCIT offers a full-time, four-year Carpentry program where graduates can earn their certifications and Red Seal, and a foundation track to gain entry-level opportunities in a shorter time. The foundation program is also ITA-approved, and will count toward your first year of technical training should you choose to pursue the full-time option.
It’s impossible to find a home or business that doesn’t function on electricity, especially in a digital society where everything and everyone is connected. The four-year Electrical program at BCIT provides classroom and workforce training to equip you with the skills you’ll need to install, test, and adjust power systems in buildings. The Electrical Foundation program prioritizes hands-on training to help students break into the industry as quickly as possible.
It’s one thing when a car breaks down. But it’s something else entirely when an excavator or bulldozer stops working. These massive machines—used in the construction, mining, farming, forestry, and rail industries — can suffer technical difficulties, especially as they’re enhanced with more digital components. That’s where you come in.
The four-year Heavy Duty Equipment Technician program teaches you how to fix and maintain these mechanical systems while earning your ITA Certificate of Qualification, Certificate of Apprenticeship, and Red Seal. If you just want to see if you like this field, or are looking to enter the workforce at a junior level, the Heavy Mechanical Trades Foundation program can be completed in just 36 weeks.
As the beating heart of our continent-wide transportation industry, big trucks require care, repair, and skilled maintenance. The Heavy Duty Truck Technology diploma prepares you for one of BC’s most in-demand trades, and is different from other programs in several important ways.
First, the curriculum is endorsed by major manufacturers due to the strong ties between BCIT and industry. Second, management and leadership training is featured in the curriculum so that graduates are not just job-ready, but promotion-ready. And third, the diploma provides more time per topic than other truck technology courses, surpassing Red Seal requirements and getting students credit for their first three levels of a full-time apprenticeship.
Construction electricians ensure that power systems are properly installed in buildings, but it’s an industrial electrician’s job is to understand and repair the increasingly-sophisticated equipment used in a wide range of worksites.
In the four-year Industrial Electrician Apprenticeship program, you’ll spend just 10 months learning the skills and theory — the rest of your time is spent out in the real world, achieving your ITA certification and Red Seal. The Electrical Foundation program is shorter, and takes you on several industry tours so you can see if this is the right field for you.
All the machines and devices you use on a daily basis are made up of individual parts, specifically designed and built to work together. Machinists produce those parts utilizing powerful tools; computer-controlled systems; and a keen understanding of metallurgy, mathematics, and mechanical drawing.
If you’re up for the challenge — and rewards — of this profession, BCIT offers a four-year Machinist program that provides your Certificate of Apprenticeship, Certificate of Qualification, and Red Seal. The Machinist Foundation program teaches the basics, and can count as your first year if you choose to undertake the full apprenticeship.
Generally speaking, tradespeople are either generalists or specialists. But millwrights are both. On one hand, they’re jacks-of-all-trades who can mend all types of machinery. On the other hand, they’re troubleshooters who understand blueprints like a second language and can repair unique and high-tech equipment, even if it means fabricating replacement parts.
Sound like fun? BCIT offers a full-time Millwright Apprenticeship program — four levels in four years, culminating in the Red Seal and your standard BC certificates—and a truncated foundation track that can count towards your first year if you opt to continue.
While automotive service technicians work on cars whose internal systems have failed, motor vehicle body repair technicians fix the damage sustained in crashes. This is a demanding but fascinating job that requires you to examine, repair, and replace components with a range of tools—you’ll master everything from welding metal, to assessing suspension and steering, to beautifully refinishing surfaces.
Like other BCIT trades programs, the apprenticeship requires four levels of program and on-the-job training to earn your BC certifications and Red Seal while the corresponding foundation program can serve as your Level 1 technical training.
Piping trades—plumbing, steamfitting, gasfitting, and sprinklerfitting—are identified by the ITA as prized jobs. The Piping Foundation program at BCIT provides you with an introduction to all four of these fields, but students can also specialize in plumbing by enrolling in the full-time apprenticeship program.
Along with earning a Certificate of Apprenticeship, Certificate of Qualification, and Red Seal, graduates can apply to receive a BCIT Diploma of Trades and Training. Plus, there are job prospects in countless workplaces and industries across Canada.
Heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), and refrigeration: these are technologies that maintain temperatures at the right levels, whether it’s keeping the shopping mall comfortably cool, your residential high-rise warm and welcoming, or an industrial freezer well below zero.
BCIT offers a range of programs to hone your skills in this field. The Refrigeration Mechanic Foundation program will prepare you for entry-level employment or, for more rigorous training, there’s the Refrigeration Mechanic Apprenticeship program. You can also study to be an HVAC and R Technician, either through a two-year diploma with co-op work experience, or a 40-week intensive certificate focused on applied learning.
Through foundation and apprenticeship programs, as well as a wide selection of other courses, BCIT is making sure that the next generation of Canada’s workforce has what it takes to meet the growing demand for skilled trades in today’s ever-evolving, digitally-driven economy.
Are you ready to thrive? Talk to our advisors to figure out which of these most in-demand trades is right for you.
(Note: This article was last updated in December 2020)