Over 1,600 Grade seven and eight students from the Brantford area attended the Epic Jobs 2023 job fair at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.
Students from roughly 50 classes got a chance to explore the world of trades during the events first return since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event was organized by Grand Erie School Board, Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board, the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) by both school boards, Organized Kaos and the Workplace Planning Board of Grand Erie.
Exhibitors made up of businesses, organizations and institutions were all present and spread out between an indoor arena space and the back parking lot.
Brantford Police Services, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Stelco, Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada, Toyota Motor, and the Ogwehoweh Skills and Trades Training Centre (OSTTC) were just a few of the 37 exhibitors on site speaking to children.
“We have colleges like Fanshaw, Conestoga, and Six Nations Polytechnic is here too,” said Danette Dalton, Executive Director of the Workplace Planning Board of Grand Erie. “We also have businesses like Stubbe’s and Walters, and we have some city departments here as well like the City of Branford, specifically their childcare folks are here, the fire department, the police department and paramedics as well – all sorts of epic jobs.”
Exhibitors came prepared with interactive activities to help better engage with the youngsters. Many students could be seen waiting in line for braids from Shallow Creek Academy of Hair Design, others went up in the air on SkyJacks, while some got to use an excavator to pick up tires or try out a welding simulator with OSTTC.
“A lot of the exhibitors put more effort into trying to make it fun and hands-on for the students,” said Dalton. “They’ve all done a great job of bringing something very creative and age appropriate so it’s a great way to help these kids understand what that job is and what they would do and what they would be learning.”
Dalton said that an event like this is a great way to get kids thinking about their future while exposing them to the fast world of skills and trades.
“These students are getting ready to go to high school and high school comes with so many options,” she said. “There’s Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Programs, SCHISM programs, specialist high skills major which is like taking a major in college or university where you can specialize in a in a chunk of classes, such as technology, or agriculture. Some of these students going into grade nine don’t know what some of those options are.”
Mark Skeffington, Communications Lead for the Workplace Planning Board of Grand Erie added that it was a great chance to have an inside look into something new to them.
“For a lot of these students, unless they have a parent or a close relative in skilled trades, they probably have no idea what happens in the job and what it’s like,” he said. “They may not get that exposure so it gives them a taste of what could be in the other occupations they may not know about.”
Baylee Martin, OSSTC’s Outreach Coordinator spoke about the benefit of introducing children in the grade seven to eight age range to the trades.
“It’s great to get them interested in things now because if you kind of know what you want to do after high school, you can take those classes going into high school,” she said. “They really are like little sponges, and they soak up everything and they are still interested. It’s not hard to make them aware of all things that this world has to offer, there’s so much money in the trades and there’s so many job opportunities.”