Should Your College Find You an Apprenticeship?
Matching Students with Local Jobs in the Trades

Students go to college or university to get jobs. This is the overwhelming reason that students and parents give for going to college and it has been true for decades. Despite the other reasons why people pursue post-secondary education, and there are some, it is naive to think that they outweigh the importance of getting a job. So the obvious question is, “should your college or university find you your first job opportunity?”

Colleges Have No Obligation to Find You a Job

The first answer to this question is No, a college has no responsibility for finding you a job. There are two main reasons for this. First, going to college is about so much more than getting a job, and to focus on employment minimizes all of these other benefits. People go to college to expand their minds, to learn new things, meet new friends and hopefully become better citizens. This is the real benefit of post-secondary education, so to reduce the experience to a mere exchange – tuition for a job opportunity – is the wrong way to think about it.

The second reason is that a college, or a professor, cannot control what you will do with a job opportunity, how much effort you will put in, or whether you will show up every day with a good attitude. “We gave them all the knowledge, now it’s up to them to use it and find a job”, is the common refrain. Since colleges cannot control how their graduates will perform, they should not be obligated to find them a job.

Colleges Should Find You a Job

The other answer is Yes, colleges should be responsible for finding you that first job. Every institution, implicitly or explicitly, sells seats in their classrooms with the promise of a better job. “What career are you interested in?, “What are your career goals?”, or “What do you want to do with your degree?” are some of the most common questions that college recruiters ask potential students. Their answers are then focused on explaining how some of their programs are great preparation for the student’s goals. It’s a very effective strategy, but the message is clear – getting a degree or diploma gets you a better job.

When a student, or their parents, pay thousands of dollars a year for a credential and they are encouraged to believe that this will get them a job, they have a right to expect that there will be a job when they graduate. Yes it’s complicated, and yes it’s a lot of work to ensure that students have a chance at employment when they graduate. So if the college doesn’t know how many jobs will be available when students finish, or they know there are far fewer jobs than graduates, students have a right to be frustrated.

We Start with the Opportunity

Students come to Trade Smart College because they want to become a journeyperson in a specific trade. We feel obligated to maximise those chances by teaching the right things at the right time. But more importantly, we feel it is our responsibility to make sure there is at least a potential entry-level job available when they graduate. And not just any job. We want to help address the shortage of skilled tradespeople, so we want our students to get into apprenticeships. This is the starting point for great trades careers.

We find these apprenticeship opportunities locally, in Hamilton and the surrounding area. The reason is that skill shortages, job openings, and company expansions are almost always solved locally, not regionally or provincially. The province may need 100,000 skilled tradespeople, but that shortage isn’t going to be solved unless qualified people are matched with apprenticeship opportunities. Simply dumping 100,000 newly minted graduates into the province won’t work. College to work connections must be done locally, in local labour markets.

If Everyone Graduates at the Same Time, Lots of People Don’t Get Jobs

Many colleges offer their programs 2 or 3 times per year. One of the disadvantages for students in this model is that there are 2 or 3 large clumps of graduates each year, meaning that lots of people are competing for the same jobs at the same time. Some Career Colleges have recognized this problem and offer multiple start dates to spread out the number of graduates at any one time.

At Trade Smart College, we only graduate 120 students a year, and we only take 25 students per class. We don’t dump a bunch of students into the market so they can all compete with each other for a small number of jobs. We talk to our certified companies first and get a sense from them whether they will be able to take somebody in a couple months or not. If the answer is no, we move on to our other companies to see if they can take people. And if we get 5 spots in a trade, we take five students for that cohort. If we don’t get any, we don’t take any students in that trade for that cohort. It’s not a guarantee by any means, but at least it’s a fair shake for the students and the companies to get what they both want – a job and a good employee.


If you’re looking to get into a skilled trade, the most difficult part of the journey is finding a company or union that will sign you as an apprentice. You can have the highest grades, or demonstrate superior technical skills in a lab, but none of that matters unless you have a genuine opportunity at earning an apprenticeship. Some colleges leave it up to you to find those opportunities. At Trade Smart College, we think that is our job. If you agree, contact us for more information about our program.

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