Canada sees rise in apprenticeships

'It's crucial for industry to have that transfer of knowledge from your seasoned veteran to your next generation of workers'

Canada sees rise in apprenticeships

The field of apprenticeship is seeing some impressive growth.

The Ontario government, for example, increased apprenticeship registrations by 24% in the last year – from 21,971 to 27,319. In total, there were 91,634 apprentices active in Ontario as of April 3, 2023.

In Canada overall in 2021, new registrations in apprenticeship programs (+31.1%) and certifications in the trades (+33.7%) saw significant increases from the year before, according to Statistics Canada.

So what’s behind the gains? Greater collaboration among various players, according to Adam Melnick, director of Canadian affairs at Insulators Union, in talking with HRD.

“There was good effort taking place inside of each sector, each industry and maybe even each trade, there's definitely an effort – but it was siloed, it was partitioned,” he said.

“But if we look at the past five or six years – whether it be government-led, whether it be industry-led, whether it be education-led – we've seen a really big influx of… trying to get a collaborative approach by bringing industry in a lot of cases, bringing labour, bringing the training centers of the colleges, bringing people together to create a little more clarity on the pathway, entrance requirements, what is it like to be in that trade.”

This year, Ontario is supporting 95 new pre-apprenticeship program projects, which are free for participants and combine classroom training with on-the-job learning. 

Recently, the International Labor Organization (ILO) adopted a new labour standard surrounding apprenticeships.

Transfer of knowledge

Apprenticeships are a great way for employers to ensure that the best practices are passed down from one generation of workers to the next, said Melnick.

This is true especially when industry veterans decide to move into retirement. In the year ending August 2022, 73,000 more people retired compared to a year earlier, a jump of 32 per cent, CTV News reported, citing data from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

“Apprenticeship is one of the most important spaces for the transfer of knowledge… the transfer of what we might call the intangibles, the things you've learned on the job within the industry,” he said.

“The apprenticeship is a block of time – it can be three to five years in some cases – where that transfer of those intangibles takes place. And it's crucial for industry to have that transfer of knowledge from your seasoned veteran to your next generation of workers.”

An apprenticeship sets the “culture of opportunity” for that to happen, said Melnick, because it encourages mentorship between an industry-wide journeyperson and an apprentice.

Employers and employees aren't seeing eye-to-eye when it comes to learning and development, according to a previous report.

Apprenticeships ‘key to your success'

Compared to jobseekers applying for a job, apprentices may be putting in more effort just to get into an apprenticeship program, said Melnick.

“When you have an apprentice, you have someone who wants to work in that particular trade. They've already decided they want to start; they’ve taken the time to register, they've set themselves up, they register with you and the government as an apprentice. They're setting up this relationship. They want to learn the trade. 

“You have this captive audience who wants to work for you, that can grow, is there to grow, they want to grow, they want to learn this trade, and [for] you as a business, they are key to your success… Because, ultimately, the workforce that you have is going to be obviously a big component of your success.”

Take that opportunity to put the time in with their training, said Melnick. 

“Encourage and embrace the questions that they have. And ensure you're asking them questions along the way to make sure it's being digested.”

Workers are far more concerned about improving and expanding their skills now, according to a previous report.

The value of mentorships

Melnick also said that employers should encourage mentorship. 

“Don't discount the value of mentorship; it comes in a lot of different ways.

“There are people across your workforce who could be strong mentors into the industry, into your company culture, all the things that are going be keys to your success. Embrace mentorship for your next generation of workers.

“Because that's what the young workers are looking for: they're looking for people to help show them the way.”

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