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Elementary students attend the Epic Jobs 2024 job fair

Local NewsElementary students attend the Epic Jobs 2024 job fair

Around 2,400 Grade 7 and 8 students from the Grand Erie region attended the Epic Jobs 2024 job fair at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.

The fifth annual event was organized by the Workforce Planning Board of Grand Erie, Organized Kaos, Grand Erie District School Board, Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board, the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) and the Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program of both school boards.

Students try their hand at operating power drills during Epic Jobs 2024 at the Wayne Gretzky Centre on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.

Throughout the five-hour job fair, students from across Brantford-Brant, Norfolk County and Haldimand County, had the chance to explore the world of trades and gain first-hand experience in various fields.

“The idea of the event is to encourage Grade 7 and 8 students to consider possible future careers in the trades by exposing them to different companies and exhibitors who employ skilled trades people,” said Mark Skeffington, Communications Lead for the Workplace Planning Board of Grand Erie. “It’s really designed to open their eyes to potentials because there are many students and many parents that don’t consider skilled trades as a career choice.”

Youngsters happily take the opportunity to go up in the air on a SkyJack during Epic Jobs 2024 at the Wayne Gretzky Centre on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.

He said that while many parents may encourage their children to go to college or university, the benefits of trade school are often overlooked.

“With the skilled trades, you can learn on the job as an apprentice and you can earn good money while you get educated and, in many cases, you can even finish without a student debt,” he said. “Right now, there is such a huge demand for skilled trades in Canada, and really around the world. That demand is only expected to increase in the future because a lot of skilled trades people are 50 to 55-plus and getting ready to retire down the road.”

One student participates in the Brantford Police Services’ obstacle course during Epic Jobs 2024 at the Wayne Gretzky Centre on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.

Nearly 50 exhibitors made up of companies, unions, associations, post-secondary schools and other organizations related to the trades and other in-demand careers were all on site and spread out between an indoor arena space and the Gretzky Centre’s back parking lot.

Brantford Police Services, Stelco, GrandBridge Energy, Toyota Motor, the Ogwehoweh Skills and Trades Training Centre (OSTTC), Edge Factor, the Academy of Building Technology, Stubbe’s and the Sheet Metal Workers and Roofers Local 537, were just a few of the exhibitors chatting about their fields.

A teacher from Mohawk College’s Marshall School of Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship helps teach a student how to change a tire during Epic Jobs 2024 at the Wayne Gretzky Centre on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.

While some exhibitors set up trivia, or handed out swag and information, a majority came with interactive activities to help better engage with the youngsters. Many students had the opportunity to use power drills, welding simulators, and virtual reality goggles, while others went up in the air on a SkyJack, tried their hand at soldering copper pipes or putting on firefighter gear.

“The students always seem to have fun and it’s far more effective than having a guest speaker talk to 500 kids about the trades at their school,” said Skeffington. “In many cases this event may be the only time they get to discover what the trades are really like, because unless somebody has close relatives that work in the trades, they have really no idea what the jobs entail.”

Several Grade 7 and 8 students participate in a game of trivia with the Niagara Peninsula Aboriginal Area Management Board (NPAAMB) during Epic Jobs 2024 at the Wayne Gretzky Centre on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.

As a new feature for the event, Jon Callegher, Executive Director for Job Talks, gave a presentation on careers in the trades over at the Bethel Park Bible Chapel next door to the Gretzky Centre.

“The presentation is a new thing we’re doing as a joint venture with the Chamber of Commerce Brantford-Brant and the school boards. John will be over there talking about how to get youth interested in the trades,” said Skeffington. “He’s a very passionate speaker and throughout his talk, he will be outlining a kind of business case on why the skilled trades is something that parents and students should really consider. Hopefully everyone will be able to take something away from that.”

Several youngsters sit to have their hair braided during Epic Jobs 2024 at the Wayne Gretzky Centre on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.
Kirsten Frankish, Tarn Sodia, and Aliya Ali of the CWB Welding Foundation pose for a photo during Epic Jobs 2024 event at the Wayne Gretzky Centre on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.

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