Research summary - Canadian youth attitudes towards the trades

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

Official title: Canadian youth attitudes towards the trades: results from PISA 2015

Author of report: Marie-Anne Deussing

Why this study

There is concern that the supply of workers in the trades will not keep up with the demand of the economy. Data from the Census suggest the workforce is ageing at a faster pace in the trades. At the same time, many high school students do not seek apprenticeship as a first pathway to the labour market. Youth perceptions of the trades is a factor that could explain the reluctance of some to follow an apprenticeship program.

What we did

In this study, we assessed the factors associated with a student's plan of pursuing a career in the trades. We use data from the Youth Attitudes toward the Trades (YATT) questionnaire of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015. The factors of particular interest include student personal characteristics and student perceived parental attitudes towards the trades. We also examine the influence of different sources of information consulted by the students. We performed the analysis separately for boys and girls.

What we found

Findings point to an overall low level of interest in pursuing a career in the trades among high school students. Canadian students interested in pursuing a job in the trades were mostly non-immigrants and male (respondents identified themselves as male or female only). They were also students with lower average levels of mathematics and reading proficiency. At the same time, few parents and teachers encouraged youth to consider the skilled trades. 

For boys, the following personal characteristics meant that they were unlikely to pursue a career in the trades:

  • having strong reading skills
  • belonging to a socio-economically advantaged family
  • being immigrant
  • self-identifying as Indigenous
  • having a higher sense of belonging to the school community

For girls, these characteristics did not matter.

In addition, several resources provided at school had a positive effect on the likelihood of working in the trades. For both boys and girls, these include:

  • speaking to someone working in the trades
  • speaking to a teacher

Boys were also more likely to plan a career in the trades if they visited a worksite. They were less likely to plan a career in the trades if they spoke to a career counsellor. Further, we found that the career guidance provided by parents plays a role. Students were more likely to plan a career in the trades if their parents had encouraged them to. The opposite was true if their parents had discouraged them.

What it means

Skilled trade occupations demand high levels of numeracy and literacy. Results demonstrate that students planning to pursue a job in the trades often have significantly lower mathematics and reading skills. Also, parents are more likely to encourage students performing at the lower levels of mathematics proficiency to pursue the trades. Essential skills training can help ensure those who choose careers in the skilled trades are able to succeed in an apprenticeship program.

Contact us

Strategic and Service Policy Branch, Economic Policy, Labour Market and Skills Research


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