A Survey Study to Explore Interdisciplinary Trades Education: Conceptual Framework to Practice

O'Connell, Cheryl
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University of Guelph

Regional economic diversification and aligned post-secondary education are a paramount consideration as the 21st century has been an era of rapid technological advancement, profound economic upheaval, and unprecedented change. As regions of British Columbia face the heightened urgency of economic recovery and diversification, an opportunity exists to explore the advancement of formalized interdisciplinary trades programming. Programming to prepare learners for the diverse workforce needs, shifts, and emerging economies of the 21st century, inclusive of small business development and entrepreneurship. The skilled-trades are vital to regional economies, yet there are pan-Canadian concerns regarding the under-valuation of the skilled-trades, resulting in a constrained trades-based workforce (BCCA, 2017; CAF, 2020). This study has afforded the opportunity to research stakeholder needs and interests, vital to informing program advancement. Program advancement focused on providing learners with access to relevant and credentialed education of value as they transition into the workforce poised to engage in their regional economies. The research participants' insights have provided a baseline of needs and opportunities specific to the skilled-trades aligned with present-day and emerging workforce requirements. The study's primary region of focus was semi-rural and rural Vancouver Island regions as served by the host institution. The research involved 177 research participants who offered regional-based insight while contributing to adjunct pan-Canadian data related to trades education. Complementing McDonald’s (2014) research and analysis of trades training in B.C., this study provides insight into motivations, needs, and interests relative to skilled-trades training and education, small business development, entrepreneurship, and credentialing. The research findings resulted in an Interdisciplinary Trades Education Development Framework to support program advancement. The framework and supportive schematics acknowledge Ibrahim and Soufani’s (2002) scholarly work, which calls for a Canadian-based framework for entrepreneurship programming and builds upon Rae’s (2007) Institutional Connectivity of Employability Enterprise Programming schematic, which identifies the multi-faceted role of higher education in advancing educational programming. The skilled-trades as a discipline is remarkably understudied. Thus, this research supports enriched trades-based curricula and formalized credentialing with the commitment of expanding skills development in the trades to enable career diversification while facilitating student advancement and mobility.

Skilled Trades, Trades Education, Regional Development