The State of Apprenticeship Programs in Canada

The State of Apprenticeship Programs in CanadaArcus has worked with clients in various sectors who are anxious to see an increase in the number of skilled and certified trades workers available to them.  They would prefer to see Canadian trained workers in these roles and Canadian governments express a desire to improve access but still potential workers who try to enroll in apprenticeship programs face long waiting lists. While demand is there – from those who want to train and those who want to hire – funding for training has not met up with demand.


The State of Apprenticeship Programs in Canada


There are three critical challenges that need to be addressed to minimize the supply-demand gap.  First, a national strategy and coordination of accreditation between the provinces needs to happen.  At the present time, Canada’s 13 provinces and territories each have their own jurisdiction over apprenticeships.  If an apprentice manages to find a job opportunity in another province, they may be barred from counting their already earned on-the-job-training hours, which will delay their ability to achieve journey-person status.  (Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan have agreements in place that allow apprentices to move without needing to restart their training.)


Second, community colleges and polytechnical institutions s are crucial to preparing skilled trades workers, and must receive a larger portion of the postsecondary funding pie. This will provide the necessary in-classroom element of training.


Third, in step with the above, employers need to open their doors to apprentices.  At present, they are happy to pay proper wages to trained journey-persons but are more loathe to bring on apprentices, fearing the administrative costs and time spent in training will be ‘wasted’ once the trained apprentice moves to another employer once they’ve completed their apprenticeship.


Earlier this year the Canadian Council of Chief Executives published a report that called for a dramatic expansion of the Canadian apprenticeship system.  At present, almost half of Canada’s registered apprentices (426,000) are engaged in four training areas: the electricity sector, plumbing, carpentry or automotive technicians.  The Council would like to see more traditional white collar work, such as banking, sales or information technology, move to an apprenticeship model.  This would relieve some of the pressure on colleges and universities.  Countries such as Germany and Austria, who have strong apprenticeship traditions, also enjoy a lower youth unemployment rate.


  • A positive partnership between educational institutions, employers and governments, both state and federal, were key contributors to Germany’s success with apprenticeship programs.


  • Creating a highly skilled workforce with relevant training is a win-win for governments and business, as well as for Canadian workers.  It’s time more attention was paid to this issue.

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