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Atlantic trade harmonization initiative halfway done

Russell Hixson
Atlantic trade harmonization initiative halfway done

A project to harmonize trades in the Atlantic provinces is now more than halfway complete. The Atlantic Apprenticeship Harmonization Project (AAHP) was created in 2014 to align the rules, processes, and standards for apprenticeship in the four Atlantic provinces.

Proponents of the project believe the regional initiative will result in more consistency and efficiency in the way people enter the trades and work toward certification. The Atlantic Apprenticeship Council (AAC) has the oversight for the AAHP.

As a result of the Atlantic Apprenticeship Harmonization Project, 10 trades will be harmonized throughout the region. These are the 10 trades: bricklayer, cook, welder, metal fabricator (Fitter), carpenter, instrumentation and control technician, construction electrician, industrial electrician, plumber and steamfitter/pipefitter.

These trades were chosen based on criteria including, but not limited to, trade mobility, demand/volume, related trades that can be harmonized at the same time, the age of curriculum standards, and industry endorsement.

According to project officials, the project is around 60 per cent complete.

"It gives all these apprentices more chances to succeed," said Jean Marc Ringuette of IBEW Local 502.

"It will help grow the communities which will great for our region."

The goals of the project are to meet skilled workforce deficits, maximize access to training, facilitate labour mobility, and create a better training and working experience for apprentices. It also aims to maximize operational efficiencies, improve employer and apprentice awareness and engagement, and develop a shared information technology system.

As well as harmonizing standards (e.g., curriculum, logbooks, and exams) in the 10 identified trades, the Atlantic provinces are in the process of implementing common policies and processes to increase consistency in apprenticeship training and certification requirements. A shared IT system will assist harmonization; enhance reporting capabilities; and enhance online functions and services for employers, apprentices, and training providers.

To date, a steering committee and several sub-committees, consisting of representatives of the Atlantic Workforce Partnership Secretariat staff and jurisdictional apprenticeship/board authorities have been working to develop common policies, processes, and standards to harmonize apprenticeship training and certification requirements within Atlantic Canada. As well, Atlantic Trade Advisory Committees (ATACs), consisting of industry and training representatives, have and continue to be active in guiding the work of the project.

"Apprentice mobility is the issue, especially on the east coast," explained Ringuette. With travel required to sometimes find work or get experience, the differing rules and polices between provinces can be a big challenge.

Carol MacCulloch, chair of the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency Board said harmonization will also benefit employers.

"The reason we are doing this is because the industry has pushed for years for the government to make easier and simplified," she said, adding that it creates combined capacity of the four jurisdictions working together.

Atlantic Apprenticeship Harmonization is the first project in Canada to address full harmonization of apprenticeship programs and systems across jurisdictional borders.

The Council of Atlantic Premiers have signed two Memoranda of Understanding — one for the harmonization of trades and one for apprentice mobility. Federal and jurisdictional funding for the project spans a 42-month period, ending in July 2017.

Program officials say they are now in conversation now to get dedicated resources to ensure the progress continues.

Harmonization is also taking place on a national level. The Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA) is responsible for the Red Seal Program, which develops common interprovincial standards and examinations. The CCDA is undertaking the Harmonization Initiative in 30 Red Seal trades by 2020.

The goal is to substantively align apprenticeship systems across Canada by making apprenticeship training requirements more consistent in the Red Seal trades, expand the use of the Red Seal trade name and provide a consistent number of training levels, total trade hours and technical training which all have been identified as priorities of the project.

The first trades to be nationally harmonized are carpenter, welder, metal fabricator, ironworker (generalist), ironworker (reinforcing), mobile crane operator, tower crane operator. Apprenticeship intake for these trades under the changes are expected this September.

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