Apprenticeship network celebrates skilled trades

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The Southwest Apprenticeship Network is working hard to fuel the skilled trades in southwestern Ontario.

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Worried about a shortage of skilled trade workers in Chatham-Kent?

Never fear – there’s a group of dedicated employers hammering at the problem.

Part of the Southwest Apprenticeship Network (SAN), AWC Manufacturing is one of those employers. Recently, the Tilbury company received the organization’s industrial leader award for its role in fostering the next generation of welders.

According to Joel Van Bynen, an associate dean at Sarnia’s Lambton College who helps guide the effort, SAN was formed to spur involvement in the trades.

“We’re trying to focus on what employers can do to attract and train apprentices,” Van Bynen told The Chatham Voice, noting smaller and mid-size businesses can benefit from training and tax incentives offered by the government.

SAN tries to set its sights on companies with 100 employees or less, he added, as the larger companies are well-supported in their apprenticeship program.

Bringing on apprentices also helps companies with their bottom line, Van Bynen said.

“We have really good data that if you train apprentices, it’s good for businesses,” he stressed, adding companies are apt to see a return on their investment.

Providing apprentices with local training opportunities is also important, Van Bynen explained, noting Lambton, St. Clair and Fanshawe colleges work hand-in-hand to offer the educational component for apprentices.

“There’s a mass shortage of skilled trades workers in Ontario and we are doing our best to solve the shortage,” Van Bynen said.

SAN is a network of 27 businesses and organizations. Formed in 2019, the agency marked its third year of operation with its annual awards gala on March 7 at Hidden Hills Golf and Country Club. It currently operates under the umbrella of the Sarnia Lambton Workforce Development Board but reaches into Chatham-Kent because of the territory encompassed by the Lambton Kent District School Board and the St. Clair Catholic District School Board.

AWC Manufacturing wasn’t the only C-K business to be recognized. The service award went to Chatham’s Children’s Village Daycare Centre, while Handy Bros. Home Comfort and Wright’s Electric were the co-winners of the construction award.

Two Lambton County businesses also got the nod. Podlinsky Equipment Ltd. was the motive winner and Rookie of the Year went to Southpoint Equipment.

Other Chatham-Kent businesses nominated for the 2024 awards include Gillanders Heating & Cooling; Drakkar Logistics; Triple G Auto; Honey Electric Ltd.; Maple City Marine Ltd. and Odyssey Heating and Cooling Inc.

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