The federal government is investing millions in a new advisory committee that will help promote apprenticeships and skilled trades across Canada.

Sault Ste. Marie MP Terry Sheehan calls Ottawa’s investment of $6 million a “big win” for the city as it will encourage young people and underrepresented groups, like women, to explore career opportunities in the skilled trades.

“It’s absolutely needed. We have to grow our own apprenticeships here in northern Ontario. We have invested in the colleges and universities across northern Ontario – new facilities, new equipment. But now we need to get young folks to start taking trades as a career choice,” said Sheehan.

The advisory committee will lay the groundwork for a national campaign that will elevate the skilled trades and create awareness about job opportunities in these fields. The group will lead consultations, explore partnerships and provide advice to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.

“One of the things that I’ve found in my past experiences is that we have to change the perception and the culture related to trades. Tradespeople work as much with their minds as they do with their hands,” said Sheehan.

The committee is comprised of Mandy Rennehan, founder and CEO of Freshco, Jamie McMillan, ironworker and founder of KickAss Careers, and Matt Wayland, executive assistant to the International Vice President and Canadian Director of Government Relations for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Sheehan said he met Jamie McMillan earlier this year at an event at the Algoma District School Board.

“[Jamie] is one of the most fantastic ambassadors that I have met for the trades. She was born in Timmins and has worked throughout Canada. But her energy, her positivity and the way she connected with students was absolutely amazing,” said Sheehan. “[She] is going to do Canada proud and northern Ontario proud as we move forward creating more opportunities in trades.”

Sheehan said the federal government has made numerous investments in the Sault’s steel and trades industries, and that now the government needs to focus on investing in people in order to fill the jobs in these sectors.

“There is a great need both at Algoma Steel and Tenaris now that they’ve had the investments of $106 million between the two of them. There’s also a lot of opportunities at small and medium-size shops, and in forestry and mining,” said Sheehan. “There are so many opportunities for young men and young ladies. This is a great career choice.”

Sheehan said trades are one of the most important career paths someone can take.

He adds that there are about 67,000 jobs that need to be filled in the country’s ten largest Red Seal trades by 2023.