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Staff with the provincial Department of Advanced Education and Skills have been touring the province the last two weeks, holding information sessions on the new journeyperson mentorship program.
The program — now in a pilot stage — is aimed at providing more opportunities for skilled trades apprentices, allowing them to get in hours on the job and advance towards journeyperson status.
The mentor program was launched in the fall, but the plan has been to get details out, questions answered and a collection of applications into government before any funding is awarded.
Dedicated mentor on site
Essentially, the provincial government is offering to pay for a journeyperson mentor at an employers’ job site. That individual will be tasked with supervising and teaching apprentices at site.
Director of the skills development division within the Department of Advanced Education and Skills, Paul Dinn, ran through the details of the program at the last of the currently scheduled information sessions at the Capital Hotel in St. John’s Friday.
“(The mentor) must be a certified journeyperson with a minimum of five years in that trade area,” he said, adding the mentor must also have worked at least two years out of the last 10 years.
At least 30 would-be mentors have attended the recent round of info sessions, Dinn said.
The pilot program has $2 million dollars for its first year, $2 million the following. It will then be reviewed and core funding considered.
Hoping to develop certain groups
The Department of Advanced Education and Skills has specified mentors from traditionally under-represented groups and in rural areas will be given preference. There are also specific guidelines for employers interested in the program.
That said, the department is interested in working with employers and offers to consider any application, Dinn said.
One audience member at the latest intro session asked about the ratio of journeypersons to apprentices. The traditional ratio has been one mentor to one apprentice or, more commonly today, two to one. Recently, the province has been allowing three apprentices to be supervised by one journeyperson in certain jurisdictions.
Uniquely, under this mentorship program, the ratio can go as high as five apprentices to one skilled trades journeyperson.
“(The mentors) are strictly dedicated to overseeing the work of these three to five persons,” Dinn said, explaining why such a ratio is being allowed.
The program is “one piece of the puzzle” to providing skilled tradespeople for the future, Dinn said.
The department already has a wage-subsidy program, now offering employers up to 90 per cent of the wage cost of an apprentice.
Applications for the new program are available online through the Advanced Education and Skills website.
Questions on applications and any aspect of the program are being answered by email (JMP@gov.nl.ca) and by phone at 1-855-502-4002.