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WEIMA June 2023 Leader
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Skills/Competences Canada: 
Building pathways for over 30 Years in Canada

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WMC by Lynn Mackinlay
Lynn MacKinlay is Succeeding President of the Wood Manufacturing Council.
Skills Canada is one of the best vehicles to promote careers in skilled trades and wood manufacturing to young people in Canada.
Skills Canada was founded in 1989 and it is a registered charitable organization with its national office in Ottawa. There are 13 member organizations that represent all the provinces and territories. Skills Canada is also a member of the Organization of World Skills. Competitors from many countries, including Canada go on to compete in the World Skills Competition. The 47th World Skills is held in France this year.
Skills Canada offers regional, provincial/territorial and national skilled trades and technology competitions. Youth compete in every skilled trade and more recently a wide range of technology skill sets. From megatronics to landscape design; plumbing to power line technician; and CNC and yes, cabinetmaking!
There are hundreds of skill sets and careers represented. Exposure to the variety of skills and careers in action is one of the best mechanisms to increase awareness and interest in skilled trades and technology careers.

“Over the past 33 years, we’ve introduced hundreds of thousands of Canadian youths to endless possibilities in skilled trade and technology careers.” Skills Canada: Annual Report on Activities 2022-2023

If you have ever been to a provincial skills competition, you will already know that not only are there competitions in all things trades and tech there are also many activities that surround the actual competition. As outlined in the Skills Canada Annual Report on Activities 
2022-23, Canadian Skills Competitions are in a unique position to bring 
together many of the critical players who surround careers in skilled trades (including wood manufacturing.)
At the Young Women and Skilled Trades Conference and First Nations, Metis and Inuit Student Conference there are keynotes and diverse panels of guests who youth can identify with. These speakers and mentors are in trades and tech careers and can speak to the challenges and rewards of their pathways. For these conferences there is also a trades fair with industry, unions, post secondary, and community-based organizations promoting opportunities for under-represented youth to explore training and careers in skilled trades and technology, including WMC representing wood manufacturing.
Thanks to the support of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the Wood Manufacturing Council (WMC) was able to host a booth at both conferences for young people and also at Skills Ontario. This was a terrific opportunity to promote both the primary and secondary wood industry as we were well represented. It was delightful to talk to young people who expressed an interest in going into careers in working with wood and to become cabinetmakers. The WMC in partnership with the Canadian Kitchen Cabinet Association, with support from the Future Skills Centre, has developed a series of career profiles both in text and video format, which the WMC was able to showcase those videos at Skills Ontario for thousands of people to view. Participants could also take away career pamphlets and, engage with our interactive activity for building baltic hearts lapel pins.
Skills Ontario was an opportunity to soft launch our new tagline (in partnership with CKCA), Build a rewarding career in wood - love what you do! Our baltic birch hearts hands-on activity has stickers that show our new tagline. More than 700 hearts were sanded and assembled by youth and worn over the two days. This career promotion content will be available very soon on the WMC website with a new YouTube channel launch in our careers tab. This will also be linked on the CKCA website and for any other industry organization to link to their website.
For anyone working in wood manufacturing if you have not yet taken the time to experience skills competition in your province find the time to do so. And even more so represent your organization at a booth to promote your company and the industry in Ontario alone between 20,000 and 30,000 people attend this event. Attending are people who have an orientation towards trades and technology and it is a wonderful opportunity to promote the wide variety of interesting and engaging careers in wood manufacturing.
There are many other initiatives that happen in adjacent skills competitions. Job Talks is a media production and research agency that promotes skilled trades and construction careers and their many benefits. A few years ago, partnered with Skills Canada to create a series of videos that effectively helped promote careers in skilled trades. Included in these videos are several that refer to careers in cabinetmaking: Job Talks videos.

For more information on Skills Canada 
Initiatives beyond competitions:
A new terrific initiative I participated in this year at Ontario Skills was a luncheon for women mentors in skilled trades hosted by Women Building Futures, (WBF) during the young women in skilled trades conference.
WBF is an organization that has had a presence in Alberta and Saskatchewan for many years and is now starting its work in Ontario as well. WBF got its start in Edmonton, Alberta in 1998. This is an organization that has supported under-employed women and gender diverse people to train, enter and stay in skilled trades fields for decades. WBF offers training for entry level skills and skilled trades but also offers training for employers and employees to make their workplaces welcoming for diverse women.
Skills Canada and the 13 chapters offer excellent opportunities for young people to explore careers in trades and technology and brings together critical players in both education industry. Lastly, with a mission for diversity and equity in skilled trades and tech, Skills Canada does an excellent job of amplifying the voices of underrepresented people in our industries. This is critical to support more diverse people to navigate their pathway into the wonderful career opportunities that we have in skilled trades and technology in general and wood manufacturing in particular.

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