What were the problems with the apprenticeship system?

Guide helps employers tackle barriers to inclusive apprenticeship

What were the problems with the apprenticeship system?

The CSA Group has developed a new standard on equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility (EDIA) in apprenticeship programs to help boost representation and outcomes from equity-deserving groups in the skilled trades in Canada.

CSA Z301:24 is meant to help organizations address the low participation and retention rates of people from marginalized groups in apprenticeships. These include Indigenous people, racialized groups, women, people with disabilities, people who are neurodiverse, 2SLGBTQIA+ and newcomers to Canada.

“Women are still drastically underrepresented in most skilled trades and then to add to this as well, the journey through apprenticeship is very complex. There’s no single path,” said Kay Penn, director of health and safety standards at CSA Group, in a Daily Commercial News report.

“This standard aims to help with that. There’s a need to change the workplace culture so that we recruit and retain not just women but traditionally underrepresented groups in order to meet the growing need for skilled workers.”

In May, Ontario announced it is creating the Focused Apprenticeship Skills Training (FAST). Under the new apprenticeship stream, students in Grades 11 and 12 will be able to participate in more apprenticeship learning through additional cooperative education credits while completing high school.

Barriers to apprenticeships

One barrier to access to apprenticeship for those belonging to marginalized groups is awareness, said Penn in the Daily Commercial News report. Meanwhile, those who have connections enjoy an advantage over the rest.

“Apprenticeship relies on being sponsored and having access to mentors in the community who can help you through that process and educate, help you understand,” said Penn. “It can be a difficult path for people in underrepresented groups…who just don’t have those connections.”

Gender issues for women, and lack of accommodations for persons with disabilities in the trades and of accommodations for different religious beliefs are also among the barriers.

“People might have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder),” she said. “You have to accommodate for the learning differences. We also heard about flexibility around schedule. That was another key barrier that was identified. In addition to that, there is microaggressions, violence and harassment and how these types of things are managed. The standard provides guidance on that as well.”

CSA Z301:24 helps employers address these issues by providing them a guide on: 

  • How to create awareness of the trades at outreach events
  • How to have inclusive recruitment in apprenticeship
  • How to get some of the people without connections
  • How to help those without connect get their foot into the door
  • How to support their training, including the aspects of the completion of hours with the accommodations until their recognition as a journeyperson

“For employers, it talks about how to have equity and fairness when you are assessing the application of apprentices,” said Penn. “How do you reduce selection biases and also provide guidance on how do you create a workplace culture that reflects the different needs of the diverse workforce that you have.”

More than half (51%) of racialized people in Canada aged 15 years old or older have experienced discrimination or unfair treatment in the past five years, according to Statistics Canada (StatCan).

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