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Industry Voices: Your greatest business asset only becomes more valuable when you share it

Gary Herman
Industry Voices: Your greatest business asset only becomes more valuable when you share it

More than 1.1 million businesses in Canada — that’s almost 98 per cent of all businesses — have fewer than 100 employees. One thing is clear: Canada is a country of entrepreneurs.

Do you know which province was the most entrepreneurial last year? You guessed it. British Columbia. We started more new businesses than any other province in 2015. And what do all entrepreneurs have in common? They are always looking to find new, exciting and innovative ways to improve and grow their business.

For business owners in the trades industry, there’s no better way to accomplish your business goals than to become an employer sponsor and hire apprentices. Not only will you be helping your business by gaining new talent with fresh perspectives, but you’ll be giving back by teaching your craft to the next generation of tradespeople.

With more people entering the skilled trades, there is a significant need for more employers to hire apprentices in order for them to complete the on-the-job training required for their apprenticeship and to achieve certification.

Right now, there are more than 12,000 jobseekers ready to work as apprentices who can help you build your business — but they can’t start their careers without a little help.

As an accomplished tradesperson and employer, do you remember what it was like when you were just starting your career? I certainly do. I was nervous and little unsure of myself, but ready and eager to work hard and learn. I was so appreciative that somebody gave me a chance, and I wanted to prove — both to myself and to the employer who gave me that first opportunity — that I could do great things.

This initial feeling of nervousness can also be compared to the way someone might feel in making the decision to start their own business: leaving the comfort of a regular paycheque and making the intimidating and unnerving jump to go out on your own. There’s no safety net. It’s all up to you. That’s a bit like the way an apprentice feels as they leave school and start out in the "real world" looking for a job.

Everyone needs a little help getting started and sponsoring an apprentice is one of the easiest ways to find a motivated and qualified employee in the skilled trades. Remember, you were there once too and someone gave you a chance.

The financial benefit of sponsoring an apprentice is clear: cost-effective labour and tax incentives.

But apprentices also start off as somewhat of a "blank slate," which allows you to train them in a way that is most beneficial to your company and your working style. They’ll develop your good habits and sensibilities about the job and they will learn to understand the job from your perspective. You will be so much more than a boss to them. You’ll become a mentor, providing them with a path toward a meaningful career, facilitating friendships that can last a lifetime.

The reward of seeing someone gain confidence and learn something that you’ve taught them is a rather unique one. It’s a reward that’s hard to quantify the same way as saving in wages and taxes, but it’s an extremely powerful one nonetheless. You will no doubt also feel a genuine sense of pride.

Thanks to your mentorship, your trade will live on, and one day, the apprentice you taught will teach an apprentice of their own.

So, today, do something great for your business and for someone else. Become an employer sponsor and hire an apprentice and pass your experience along.

Gary Herman is CEO of the Industry Training Authority. Send comments to

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