Apprenticeship

Apprenticeship training at Polytechnics Canada’s members

Armed with our members’ evidence and depth of experience in delivering apprenticeship training, Polytechnics Canada is working to reform the country’s apprenticeship support system. Since the Canadian model of apprenticeship training constitutes a four-way partnership between apprentice, employer, training institution and government, more can be done to strengthen the apprenticeship "system." We are urging the federal government to review and modernize trades training to ensure that more apprentices complete their programs.

Apprenticeship training is counted seperately from the post-secondary education programs on offer at our member institutions. Polytechnics Canada collects a variety of data and other useful apprenticeship-related information. Our members: 

  • Know how to develop and deliver innovative instruction methods such as pre-apprenticeship trainign and dual-credential programs. 
  • Deliver on-line learning and simulated work experience. 
  • Are well-positioned to monitor emerging enrollment and completion trends, as well as market wages for both apprentices and journeypersons in their economic regions. 

In 2015/16 our eleven members*: 

  • Offered 89 pre-apprenticeship training programs. These programs help potential apprentices develop their job skills and trade readiness in order to secure an employer sponsor to take them on for their first engagement as apprentices. 
  • Offered the in-class training component for 242 apprenticeship programs, 186 of which led to Red Seal designations, and span 52 of the Red Seal trades. 
  • Taught over 46,000 apprentices 
    • 14,000 of which were first level students. 
    • 12,300 apprentices completed their final level of theoretical learning and were ready to challenge their journeyman qualification and, in applicabe trades, Red Seal exams. 

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship program is generally a combination of four levels of classroom learning alternating with on-the-job training, over the course of a minimum of four years.

Much more information on apprenticeships can be found through the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum. Polytechnics Canada is a champion member of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum.

How does apprenticeship work in Canada?

In order to begin an apprenticeship, a prospective apprentice must find an employer with enough certified journeypersons on staff to meet the province’s ratio requirements, which varies by province and by trade. With enough journeypersons to meet the ratio, and willingness to sponsor the apprentice’s training, the employer signs up the apprentice and registers a contract with the provincial authority. The minimum age requirement is 16 years of age and applicants must have completed a high school diploma. While there are the minimum requirements to register, aspiring apprentices should also be fully aware of the significant amount of science, technology, and mathematics competencies that must be mastered in the technical training in order to obtain certification.

About 80% of the training is spent on-the-job, learning practical skills under the direction and supervision of a Certified Journeyperson, a master of the trade. The other 20% of technical learning takes place in the classroom, such as a college, a union training centre or a private trainer, where the theoretical and technical skills and concepts of the trade are taught. Practical training and technical learning constitute a minimum of 1,800 hours per level. After completing a certification examination, the apprentice receives a Certification of Qualification and is known as a journeyperson and can then go on to mentor the next generation of apprentices.  

Why apprenticeship matters for Canada

Apprenticeship programs are essential in filling current and projected job shortages, as well as ensuring Canadian prosperity. For instance, the many large infrastructure projects across Canada will create an unprecedented demand for qualified tradespeople. Some experts predict a shortage of more than 300,000 skilled workers over the next decade in the absence of concerted efforts to increase supply.

Canada urgently needs to value the talents of our home-grown trades professionals. Yet, only 19% of skilled trades employers sponsor apprentices. For decades now, Canadian apprenticeship completion rates have been well below 50 per cent. In short, 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 these workers will retire within 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.

But don't just take our word for it, check out an overview of Conestoga College's apprenticeship programs and hear from students themselves!

*Polytechnics Canada is currenlty 13 members.  Our two newest members, Kwantlen Polytechnic and Fanshawe College are not included in this data.