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January 30, 2014
The Frontier Centre for Public Policy released today Tapping Into Our Potential: Occupational Freedom and Aboriginal Workers.
In this policy study, Frontier policy analyst Joseph Quesnel argues that Canada’s Aboriginal peoples represent vast unrealized potential for the skilled trades. In Canada, many skilled trades will face shortages as many current workers retire. Quesnel argues that the high unemployment rate and youthful demographic in many Aboriginal communities makes them prime candidates for jobs in the skilled trades.
Quesnel looks at regulations preventing Aboriginal workers from entering the skilled trades. He finds that many of the barriers faced by Aboriginal workers are unnecessary. This study seeks to identify and correct those unnecessary barriers.
Given that apprenticeship programs are regulated by the provinces, it is incumbent on those authorities to change those obsolete regulations.
In particular, he looks at how high apprenticeship ratios act to limit apprenticeship opportunities. While most provinces and territories have moved towards a 1:1 apprentice to journeyperson ratio, he argues they could go further.
“All provinces and territories need to move towards a 2:1 apprentice to journeyperson ratio,” said Quesnel.
“This would provide companies with the opportunity to hire sufficient workers to meet project demands but still limit new entrants, which ensures work for both journeypersons in the system and apprentices as they become certified. The current 1:1 ratio used in most provinces leaves too many contractors struggling to meet contract requirements. Employers generally do not want too many apprentices, as they are not as cost-effective as journeypersons are.”
The next unnecessary barrier is educational requirements. Aboriginal students have some of the worst high school completion rates across Canada. While many apprenticeship programs require Grade 12 as a necessary entry requirement, Quesnel states that this is unnecessary given that many of the skills for apprenticeship can be learned on the job. One potential solution is to introduce a skills-based assessment at the beginning and the end of the certification process. One other idea around this dilemma is for the establishment of an alternative method of achieving the Grade 12 requirement at the end of an apprenticeship rather than as an entry requirement.
The last occupational barrier is the scope of trades. Expanding the choice of trades within a provincial system will only increase the number of workers entering the skilled trades. British Columbia, in particular, has added new, innovative trade designations, such as residential construction framing technician, that expand the options available to those in the construction trade.
Finally, Quesnel mentions a model pilot project. In 1996, three Aboriginal organizations in Manitoba created the Aboriginal Apprenticeship Training Initiative (AATI). The program was to create employment and training opportunities in northern and rural communities. In 1996, the government of Manitoba amended three specific trade regulations for the trades of carpentry, electrical and plumbing to allow for a building technician apprenticeship program as a sub-trade within each of these trades. These programs concentrated on residential construction and were to meet the specific training needs in northern and rural communities.
These trades were laddered so that apprentices could receive the Certificate of Qualification for Residential Construction and thus be recognized as a qualified tradesperson in the field in which they qualified. Later, an apprentice could re-enter the trade, complete the commercial and industrial components and then receive the Red Seal Qualification when an opportunity arose to participate in the broader application of the trade. Unfortunately, the program was later rescinded by Manitoba’s NDP government.
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