Apprentices: The Future of Canada

The recent news regarding the Government of Canada supporting apprentices and asking contractors to hire apprentices for work on federal government projects actually received negative comments from people! How it is possible that people do not think that we need more trades workers to fill jobs with the industry in Canada when we are bringing in large numbers of foreign workers? This was tried in the 1930s when there was a demand for all types of workers and the prevailing theory was to import them instead of training Canadians, and it resulted in all kinds of issues as a result. We have many people ready to retire and any form of succession planning would tell us that the time is now to get more apprentices to work and to replace the outgoing skilled workforce that our contractors demand from us across Canada. Tradespeople who are in their fifties and sixties see this as a threat to their jobs and contractors see them as not as productive as a journeyperson. Both of these groups are right in some ways, but if we wait until everyone is retired who will train the next workforce? Mentoring by the existing tradespeople is necessary for any form of apprenticeship and is where up to 80 percent of the on the job skills are learned and where true understanding is transferred to an apprentice trying to become a tradesperson.

UA Canada is asking everyone to hire apprentices, in the oil patch, the nuclear sites, all forms of construction projects and even maintenance projects, so we can have young people on the job and by hiring more first year apprentices that results in fewer temporary foreign workers and fits into a national succession plan to train the new workforce. We lobby government, industry and anyone that will listen to us, to hire first and second year apprentices, especially, to fill the job requirements. We want to minimize the use of temporary foreign workers and not because we don’t want internationally trained workers. We want to address “underemployed” Canadian youth that have never had the opportunity to understand our industry and the quality of life that comes with working in construction. They have been trained to seek out college and university degrees that do not necessarily result in jobs, but can lead to tremendous debt, and have never seen the benefits and the standard of living that today’s construction worker has achieved.

UA Canada is also working on harmonization of apprenticeship standards with the Canadian government to ensure that training completed in one region of the country is accepted everywhere else to reduce barriers to apprentices travelling to find work. The word Journeyman/Journeyperson refers to the fact that they have to travel to find employment but there are currently barriers in provinces to workers that are apprentices. We have also been working with the major oil companies in Alberta and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) to make it to be easier for an apprentice to travel to go to work and get more first year apprentices out in the field. In addition to that we want them to keep a ratio of apprentices working once the layoff starts, which historically is when all of the apprentices are laid off. Many of them have already agreed, and we will be asking more to do the same.

In order for Canada to have a solid future we need to invest in our youth now and that means promoting the use of apprentices in our workplaces and it means anyone who is a tradesperson should be asking their foreman for an apprentice when they go to work. They are part of everyone’s future, and will ensure our success moving forward.