The B.C. Government recently announced welcoming news for young people wanting to get into the trades. Contractors and subcontractors working on public infrastructure projects over $15 million are now required to demonstrate that they are engaged in apprenticeship training and use apprentices on the worksite. There had been calls from labour groups for a quota system that would see a quarter of all workers on a site needing to be apprentices, but this compromise has gained the support of the construction industry.

“It’s a reasonable approach. If we are investing public money in a project, then builders should be involved in the apprentice system.”

We support the initiative as it is a means to drive more employers to hire apprentices, but we didn’t support a quota system,” says Manley McLachlan, President of the BC Construction Association. “It’s a reasonable approach. If we are investing public money in a project, then builders should be involved in the apprentice system.”

Philip Hochstein, President of the Independent Contractors and Business Association, believes that a more effective way to increase the number of trainees is not with more government policy, but more economic development in the province. “The more work we have, the more there will be jobs and training positions,” he says. “Apprentices get on the job training, so if there are no jobs, there are no training opportunities.”

Seeking support

According to McLachlan, statistics from across the country show that just 30 percent of companies were hiring 80 percent of the apprentices. Given this imbalance, it’s hoped that government policy will encourage more companies to support the apprenticeship program.

This is the sentiment that Gary Herman, CEO of the Industry Training Authority is hearing from industry colleagues. “This is a great initiative, and we aren’t hearing any grumbling,” he says. In fact, businesses that have been investing in and training apprentices are applauding this move, because it levels the playing field and encourages other companies to take on apprentices.”

Jobs becoming available

The issue of having enough skilled workers is expected to become even more acute over the next decade with more job openings, through increased economic development and retirements. Business has a responsibility to train people, and they need to capture the skills of experienced workers before they retire,” says Herman.