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Shortage of skilled tradespeople near crisis

The year is almost finished for high school students, and those in college are getting their final marks in the mail. Now is the time to apply for a scholarship or bursary from the Holmes Foundation.

This financial assistance is for people who want to study - or are already studying - the skilled trades. And this year we've increased the number of scholarships available. I want to encourage kids to get into the trades, so I'm putting my money where my mouth is.

Given the shortage of skilled workers in Canada, I launched the Holmes Foundation two years ago in an effort to attract more people into the field. But I can't do it alone: I need your help to get the word out about the foundation's assistance program, and to back a fundraiser we've got running across the country called "Support the Trades."

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We need to do something about the skilled trades shortage. Anyone who works in the construction field knows how hard it is to find good workers with skills and training. And anyone who's had home renovations done knows how hard it is to find qualified people.

The shortage of skilled

tradespeople isn't going away any time soon. In fact, it's going to get a whole lot worse. We will be short by more than a million of these workers in the very near future. Who will build houses then? Who will help with your home renovation?

And, since the demand for renovation keeps growing - millions of homeowners are planning to have some kind of work done in the next year - the shortage of workers means a huge number of those jobs will be done badly. Why? Because of supply and demand: Homeowners want the job done, they often don't want to wait for skilled people to do it, and there are fewer such workers.

Some homeowners may even be willing to pay more than the job is worth, in an attempt to lure guys to do it. Guaranteed: They are going to get ripped off.

This shortage in the skilled trades will affect everyone in the country. We'll have to pay more for such workers, we'll have to wait for work to get done, and projects from home building to hospital and school construction will take years to complete.

How often do you consider the importance of skilled trades? If your toilet flushes, the lights come on when you flip the switch and your furnace keeps you warm in winter, you probably never think of it. We take it for granted, but that won't be the case much longer.

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It's not an overstatement to say we are facing a crisis. Most of Canada's skilled trades workers are expected to retire in the next 10 years, and not enough young people are entering these professions to make up for that.

In addition, tech programs are being cut, and schools have dropped shop classes and diverted money to other things.

Some of the tech courses that still exist are not even at capacity because our society doesn't encourage kids to study a trade. For years, it's been seen as less desirable to study a skilled trade, and parents, teachers and school guidance counsellors have encouraged kids to go to college or university instead.

But the fact is one out of every 16 Canadian workers earns a living in construction, and they do more than $150-billion worth of work every year. There are lots of jobs, and many skilled tradespeople make six-figure incomes with benefits.

In communities across the country, building-supply dealers have gotten behind the cause. They understand how big the problem is since they are in the front line, dealing with homeowners and contractors who buy materials and supplies to get renovations done. They know there's a shortage of workers, and they know there's a way to fix it, so they're backing the foundation's "Support the Trades" fundraiser.

We're selling chocolate-covered almonds, with proceeds going to the scholarships and bursaries for training in the skilled trades. Those who give their support can enter a draw for a car as well.

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For more information on the "Support the Trades" campaign and to buy some chocolate, go to And by the way, the deadline to apply for a scholarship or bursary is Oct. 15.

Mike Holmes is the host of Holmes on Homes on HGTV. For more information, go to .

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