Focusing on apprenticeship for all demographics

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

This might surprise you. There were 417,306 registered apprentices in Canada in 2016, according to Statistics Canada.

View From Ottawa by Bob Blakely

This might surprise you. There were 417,306 registered apprentices in Canada in 2016, according to Statistics Canada. In 2013, there were 469,680. This represents a decline of more than 50,000 apprentices over a three-year period. Although the statistics represent more than just the construction trades, we must be concerned nonetheless.

We need to analyze the numbers more deeply, however we already know that the building trades unions will lose approximately 300,000 of our members due to retirement within the next 10 years.

Therefore, it is imperative that the local unions and all our members become ambassadors to the trades and their apprenticeship programs in each of our respective communities across the country. Why is this important? Well, if we don’t replace our retiring members, we risk not having enough workers for valuable work opportunities from contractors on various job sites from coast to coast. That statement is enough to make this issue a priority!

Canada’s Building Trades Unions understands the importance of this issue and we are focused on turning this challenge into opportunities for so many who are looking to find employment in the construction industry. And we are conscious of Canada’s changing demographics. As we continue to entice traditional individuals to the construction trades and its apprenticeship programs, we must also expand and attract a new demographic to the skilled trades. The Build TogetHER initiative supports the recruitment and retention of workers from underrepresented portions of the population such as Indigenous People, veterans, new Canadians, individuals with disabilities, women and the next generation. Build TogetHER is making a difference.

However, we need to do more. We need to empower the people on the tools to become ambassadors and recruit more women, Indigenous People and people from every other under-represented group. When people think that the construction trades are an unthinkable career choice our membership can prove the contrary. We can show that the building trades unions offer a tremendously rewarding career for anyone, despite attitudes of the past. Construction trade careers offer great financial benefits.

The federal government plays a crucial role and I am pleased that it understands the importance of providing financial incentives for people in under-represented groups who would like to enter apprenticeship programs. The latest federal budget proved that. Several commitments were made:

  • $19.5 million over five years for the Apprenticeship Incentive Grant for Women ($3,000 in each of the first two years and $2,000 for completion)
  • $46 million over five years for a Pre- Apprenticeship Program to encourage people to enter the trades
  • $10 million over three years for a Women in Construction Fund to help mentor women in the trades
  • $25 million per year for a Union Training & Innovation Fund

We are thankful for these investments and will continue to work with the government and provincial governments. We will continue to promote the importance of labour mobility within Canada for our apprentices. We want provincial and territorial governments to work together to harmonize apprenticeship programs in targeted Red Seal trades. This means apprentices in those trades will be able to move between jurisdictions to meet their training requirements and employers will have access to the skilled workers they need.

Building trades unions represent 14 per cent of the Canadian GDP. We have played a pivotal role in building the infrastructure of our country and I strongly believe that we will continue to be the ones who build the infrastructure of tomorrow. In order for us to achieve this, we need to focus on bringing people from all demographics into the construction trades sector and apprenticeship programs. Canada’s Building Trades Unions are up for the challenge. I hope you are as well.

For More Information: 

Contact the BC Building Trades office
(778) 397-2220

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