Atlantic Canadian provinces lift barriers to learning, worker mobility
On Jan. 15, federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney and the Council of Atlantic Premiers issued a joint news release announcing they are making it easier for apprentices to move around Atlantic Canada, while also moving ahead with their skilled trades studies.
The announcement was more specifically about the harmonization of the apprenticeship system in Atlantic Canada, with the premiers promising it would allow more people to continue through apprenticeship to journeyperson status, helping to address the skills shortage in certain areas and sectors within Canada.
According to Advanced Education and Skills Minister Kevin O’Brien, the problem being addressed is not in workers being able to punch in their required, supervised work hours. Instead, he said, the problem came with required classroom or in-school training.
Until now, because of differences in training from one location to the next, workers active on a job in another province would sometimes have to uproot in order to return to where they began their training, simply to complete required exams and classroom time unavailable in their province of work.
The status quo was considered difficult financially, particularly if workers tried to maintain residences in two provinces. It was also hard on employers, who were hesitant to hire apprentices moving from province to province given the requirements placed on them.
“Now, when it’s harmonized and standard between the four provinces — on the four trades we’re going to focus on first and then move it out to all the other trades — they’ll be harmonized in that if a person from New Brunswick comes to Newfoundland and Labrador, rather than incur the expenses of going back to their home province and their college that they obtained their program from, well now they’ll be able to apply here and do it here and continue on their process of the four (training) blocks,” O’Brien said.
The minister was asked if he was afraid of permanently losing apprentices to other provinces as a result of the changes being made.
He said he expects bringing down the training barriers will result in a net gain for the province, as skilled tradespeople will tend to ultimately go where the opportunities are.
“People are coming to us and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are staying home, and that’s going to continue for a long period of time. … But we are also interested in citizens from other parts of Canada coming here and availing of the opportunities as well. Because we only have a workforce of such an amount and you just can’t fill all the spaces and sometimes you need expertise in one area or another that we might lack, so you need to have that mobility to move your labour force around the country,” he said.
The new measures only apply to Atlantic Canada, though work is underway to standardize training across the country.
“Canada currently has 13 different apprenticeship systems across the country with different requirements for training, certification and standards,” said the federal minister, Kenney, in the news release announcing the training changes.
“Having harmonized apprenticeship systems will help more Canadians gain the skills and experience they need to find available jobs,” he stated.
The premiers of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador all stated, in the same notice, they believe the new measure will help meet their labour market demands.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA) has signed off on the move, according to CCDA representative Joe Rudderham.
“The work that will be done to harmonize apprenticeship programming in the Atlantic region is complementary to the Red Seal trades work that is underway at the national level through the CCDA harmonization initiative,” he stated.