See new NAIT announcement on trades: http://www.nait.ca/44779_89417.htm
There is a growing recognition that apprenticeship programs play an essential role in filling current and future job shortages, as well as ensuring Canadian prosperity. Large infrastructure projects today are desperately seeking qualified tradespeople while some experts predict a shortage of more than 300,000 skilled workers over the next decade in the absence of farreaching remedial action.
Polytechnics Canada is well placed to deliver short- and long-term solutions for this serious job shortage. In the 2010/2011 academic year, almost 34,000 apprentice students attended our nine member institutions in 181 programs, ranging from boilermaking to welding. Still, despite the growing need for these graduates, current policies discourage apprenticeship training and are limiting the number of skilled tradespeople we could produce. In response, Polytechnics Canada is advocating new measures and strategies that will ensure Canada has the job-ready graduates to meet industry’s growing requirements for these highly skilled workers.
Most glaringly, apprentices are not eligible for the same government financial support programs offered university and college undergraduates. And the apprenticeship support programs that do exist are inadequate. They are “one-type-fits-all” and fail to consider apprentices’ diverse needs. For their part, apprentices work toward a career in a skilled trade, not just for a job. By supporting these students throughout their entire studies, as we urge, Canada would be able to produce a steady supply of excellent journeymen and journeywomen.
For decades, Canadian apprenticeship program completion rates have been well below 50 per cent. Simply put, not enough apprentices are obtaining the certification required for existing and upcoming infrastructure projects. Furthermore, the demographic profile of the current supply of qualified tradespeople shows that a majority of them will be retiring in the next decade. Unless action is taken, there will not be enough certified journeypersons to oversee the ongoing training of future generations of skilled tradespeople.
Unfortunately, governments treat apprentices as “employees” rather than as post-secondary “students,” barring them from numerous support programs. As well, the current scheme of uniform apprenticeship support measures, such as employment insurance payments, taxable grants and tool deductions, do not provide sufficient incentives to produce qualified tradespeople in the required numbers. Mature apprentices, young apprentices, entrepreneurial apprentices, apprentices in high-cost remote areas, and apprentices in high-wage, high-demand trades all face unique barriers. Each needs supports tailored to their particular situation. For example:
• Mature apprentices receive virtually no financial assistance despite typically facing large financial burdens. They often have families to support as well as additional costs for their classroom training.
• Youth, including college and university graduates, normally have no practical, applied skilled experience. As a result, they have difficulty finding employers to register them as apprentices.
• Entrepreneurial apprentices face higher barriers than many other entrepreneurs. They have particular challenges accessing capital and financing. The existing suite of government financial supports for self-employed people and start-ups are largely targeted to youth or recent graduates aged 18-30, which does not help older tradespeople.
Polytechnics Canada, through its Deans of Trades, and 175 Apprenticeship programs and through its trade-specific instructors, collects a variety of data and other useful apprenticeshiprelated information. We know how to develop and deliver innovative instruction methods such as pre-apprenticeship training and dual-credential programs. We can deliver on-line learning and simulated work experience. Our members are also well positioned to monitor emerging enrolment and dropout trends, as well as market wages for both apprentices and journeypersons in their economic regions.
Armed with this knowledge, Polytechnics Canada is working to reform the country’s apprenticeship support system. We are urging the federal government to review and modernize trades training to ensure that more apprentices complete their programs. Specifically, we are proposing measures and reforms such as tax credits for employers who help apprentices achieve their final certification, a broader application of the Canada Student Loan Program, taxfree incentives and grants as well as start-up loan assistances for qualified tradespeople who want to start their own business. The time has come for apprentices to be valued equally with post-secondary students—and supported as such.