Tricks of a Trade–Learning Outside of the Classroom

Tricks of a Trade–Learning Outside of the Classroom
  By Stephanie Coolen

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With projected labour shortages expected in the next decade as baby boomers retire, the trades will be a hotbed of hiring activity. Students looking to enter this field can actually start preparing ahead of time. The question most will have to ask though is, 'how can I learn a trade outside of the classroom?' Afterall, most of your class schedule will be filled with the usual academic-related subjects.

In the past, skilled tradesmen learned their craft through on-the-job training, informally picking up skills from working side-by-side with more experienced workers and education was not a priority. As the field evolved, some acquired skills through vocational education and now, most students looking to enter the trades, participate in employer training programs or apprenticeships upon completion of their education. That doesn't mean you have to wait to get your hands dirty though.

Hobbies can be a great place to start. As one Automotive Tech put it, "As a kid I liked tinkering with stuff. My dad bought me a motorcycle when I was 13 and I liked to tinker on it." This interest eventually led him to work as a motorcycle mechanic, eventually switching to cars. As long as the principles are the same, you can apply the knowledge from one trade to another.

Even if you're not ready to start hoarding all of the small appliances in the kitchen and frankensteining some new contraption out of them, there are other things you can do to get going. Consider buying some tools. You don't have to buy top of the line equipment, but good quality tools from a department store with lifetime warranties will work fine and still be in line with your student budget. Christmas and birthday gifts are a great way to build up your collection! Apprentices are often required to purchase their own tools, which can add up to thousands of dollars, but this won't seem as costly if you've already got some of the basics. Ryan Baxter, 21, an apprentice with Farmer Construction in Victoria, BC suggests starting with:

· a tape measure
· hammer
· tool apron
· hand saw
· and a level.

Start using these tools and become familiar with them "…or it can get frustrating for people that are working with you."

Check the general interest courses being offered at your local community center. If a course you're interested in is only offered to adults, have your parent contact the center to see if alternate arrangements can be made for you to participate. Or, see if you can enroll in the course with an adult.

Take a good look around you. Almost every neighbourhood has one handy-dandy, fix-it kind of person. They don't have to be currently working either. Some retired tradespeople or seniors can be a great source of knowledge for learning some of the basics as well as those little tricks you never seem to learn in school. As a bonus, they often have more free time to spend with you than those already working a full

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