More schools and more students in New Brunswick are getting onboard with a pilot program that highlights in-demand skilled trades.

The New Brunswick Teen Apprentice Program started last year as a three-year pilot project aimed at giving high school students a head start on skilled trades-related apprenticeships.

The pilot involved six students from Simonds High School who began their internships last summer in a machine shop at the Irving Oil Refinery.

Sheldon Patterson, a Grade 11 student, said he wants to be a boilermaker.

"I've always been around the trades. My Dad was a pipefitter, so I’ve always been around them, welding a little bit even before this program," he said.

The N.B. TAP starts in Grade 10. By the time students graduate, they'll have enough hours to challenge Block 1 of their trade, the first requirement of their apprenticeship.

The program also gives students the chance to earn income on the job.

"Yeah, I bought myself a car so it's great," said Jordon Robertson.

Irving Oil is one of about 20 companies that have signed on. At the Saint John refinery alone there are 700 trades people.

"I think there's a general trend across Canada that in the trades, there’s a growing, aging demographic," said Dana London, a maintenance manager at Irving.

Need for skilled trades workers continues to grow

Simonds High Principal Gary Keating jumped at the opportunity to pilot the apprentice program.

Thousand of tradespeople in New Brunswick are set to retire in the next decade and Keating said his school can help fill the void with interested students.

"We were able to keep our carpentry shop, our metal fab shop and those classes are full every year," he said.

Keating said it's important for high schools to present all option to students.

"I personally don't think it's the job of the high schools to encourage or discourage students from what career path they want to go, students have dreams, they have goals and we should encourage those," he said.

The Teen Apprentice Program is now taking on 30-students from southern New Brunswick.

People who will hopefully stay and put their skills to work in the province.

Michael Atkinson, president of the Canadian Construction Association told CBC News earlier this year, that by 2020, Canada will need an additional 320,000 skilled construction workers.

The oil and gas industry alone estimates it will be short 5,000 skilled workers over the next three years, and will need hundreds of thousands over the next two decades.

The need for skilled tradespeople is particularly acute in places such as Alberta, where jobs for welders and pipefitters are in high demand.

It's estimated the province will need 115,000 additional workers in skilled trades over the next 10 years.