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Editorial Winter 2012: Rallying the youth

Water well drilling needs to be more top of mind for today’s youth.


January 5, 2012
By Laura Aiken

One Sunday afternoon I mastered the art of undisturbed couching with a
12-hour marathon of the reality show Gold Rush Alaska on the Discovery
Channel.

One Sunday afternoon I mastered the art of undisturbed couching with a 12-hour marathon of the reality show Gold Rush Alaska on the Discovery Channel. In a nutshell, it’s a program about a bunch of guys who lease a plot of Alaskan land and spend the summer mining for gold with little experience, lots of breakdowns (equipment and mental) and the gumption to still be drilling when all others have long packed up for the winter. Now, wouldn’t it be neat if they were drilling for water in some remote and mighty part of the world? I would love to see a reality marathon of that because television has this peculiar ability to glamorize anything, even freezing your arse off in Alaska. Drilling could use a little glamour right now to inspire its next generation.

I hear a lot of rumbling about succession concerns and lack of young, qualified, experienced drillers coming up in the ranks behind the generation looking to retire. It’s a valid worry, and one that many different trades are grappling with.

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Here are some perhaps unsurprising stats for you from the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum-Forum canadien sur l’apprentissage: “While 60 per cent of parents say that they would be likely or very likely to recommend a career in the skilled trades to their children, 59 per cent of young people say that their parents have not encouraged them to consider skilled trades. Furthermore, 72 per cent of young people say their school guidance counsellors have not encouraged skilled trades as an option and 37 per cent of young people aged 13 to 24 said their schools did not have information readily available about careers in skilled trades.”

Campaigns such as Skilled Trades/A career you can build on (www.careersintrades.ca), are attempting to remedy this problem before this country experiences the Conference Board of Canada’s estimated shortage of one million workers by 2020. These are important and needed steps. But youth seems to need more than sound information to make sound decisions. The millennials like to get excited about stuff and are recognized as a highly creative generation. The nice thing about the power of television is that it makes a hard day’s work for the honest pay look really cool while rallying allegiance to the everyman’s capitalist dream. However, if future historians had nothing but our television programming to go by, they would think we were a bunch of aspiring singers.

My point is that while there are campaigns countrywide to address the labour shortage in skilled trades, water well drilling needs to be more top of mind for today’s youth. Perhaps high school guidance offices are the place to start promoting the industry. Perhaps there is an opportunity for you to go to your local high school and speak about your profession. If there is a grass roots opportunity to be involved, get involved.

A recent survey for the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum-Forum canadien sur l’apprentissage, conducted by Ipsos-Reid, “showed that 47 per cent of youth and 41 per cent of parents hold the view that many skilled trades are physically demanding.”

Yes, they certainly can be. But all jobs require some physical exertion, whether it’s the eye and spine strain of a desk worker, or the sore soles of a shoe salesman. Physically demanding shouldn’t be a dirty word in a country striving for better fitness. Life is demanding – but it is also fun – and that is the real world we should be preparing the next generation for.