I grew up in a Kootenay mill town. There was 4 saw mills, a pulp mill and a smelter all within a 30mins drive. Mill workers and trades people drove the economy. My dad and 4 uncles were in the trades - 3 Millwrights, 2 Machinists [HTML_REMOVED] 1 Fabricator. I grew up knowing it was important to get a trade, never turn down overtime and enjoy your life outside of work.
Straight out of high school, no education, I was making $52K/yr pulling lumber. Like a typical 18yr old, I pissed away all that money. It took 2yrs for me to realize I needed a trade because the forestry economy was on a down turn. Because of the union and seniority, there was no way I would get an apprenticeship at that mill, with that company. So I quit, got a student loan and took a 1yr pre-apprenticeship program. Best move I ever made. The saw mill I was at has been shut down for over a decade now.
I've been a Machinist now for over 17yrs. I mainly work manual but can program and run CNC and I've never been unemployed. It helps to be as versatile as possible. So try to get on as many machines as you can and take additional part course at BCIT. It can be a struggle to get signed up as a 1st year apprentice, but stick with it. Going the CNC route will help you get a foot in the door with a lot of companies. But my advice would be after you have a good grasp of G-code and set-ups, switch to manual as soon as you can. The majority of the older generation of Manual Machinist are retiring now and there already is a shortage of them in the lower mainland. Because of how BCIT's machining program is structured, the market is flooded with CNC operators.
The Machining industry in the lower mainland is big but not that big. There are lots of little mom [HTML_REMOVED] pop shops, one off jobbing shops and then there's the high volume sweat shops.
We have 38 machinist at the (non union) company I'm at. A third of us make $75k+ a year. What I really love about my shop is that we aren't high volume. A lot of one offs. Batch runs rarely go over 15 parts.
I became a machinist because I love making things with my hands and because I knew you'd always have a dry roof over your head, a lunch room, you knew where you would be working each day and because of the high earning potential.
I know I would have enjoyed and excelled at other trades too. I was working weekend shift a few years ago and during the middle of the week I was helping a buddy who owned a siding company. I really loved doing Hardy siding and reno's. Each day you could look back and see what you made. But you were at the mercy of the weather. Working in the rain sucked.
Millwrights, Electricians, Heavy Duty Mechanics, even welders can make a lot of money. But the earning potential of machining, coupled with a dry roof over head and being home with my family every night is why I choice Machinist.