British Columbia’s employers in the skilled trades are getting a multimillion-dollar boost to increase apprenticeships.
The British Columbia Construction Association (BBCA) will oversee $21 million announced Aug. 24 by the federal government to support small and medium-sized enterprises in B.C. hiring a minimum of 2,100 first-year apprentices in eligible Red Seal trades over the next two years, including a minimum 500 first-year apprentices from underrepresented groups such as women, people with disabilities, Indigenous and racialized people.
“What we really like about this program is that it’s going to be providing monetary incentives for employers who are converting labourers to apprentices, who are successful in finding new hires and we’re going to be supporting them by launching a campaign that is going to be significant in nature and looking at targeting those who are considering high opportunity occupations in the construction sector,” BCCA president Chris Atchison said.
“In the past few years there’s been a lot of money directed at individuals, but not as much directed at business, so this is an opportunity for funds to be directed right at a small to medium-sized employer in the construction realm.
“The string that is attached is that they need to be hiring a new first-year apprentice. That can be a labourer that’s already employed with them that’s going to be registered in one of the 39 Red Seal trades,” he added. “But (with) the dollars attached to that hire, it’s going to be completely up to the employer how they wish to use it, whether it’s a signing bonus to offset other increased costs they may have endured over the past couple of years, that’s completely up to them.”
Atchison added a core component of the funding initiative is to diversify employment within the construction industry.
“There are the dollars available for any new hire in one of the 39 Red Seal trades but there are added dollars attached if the new apprentice is coming from one of the equity-deserving groups…a person who is a new Canadian from the LGBTQ-plus community, who is a female, Indigenous, persons with disabilities or a visible minority,” Atchison said.
While BCCA will manage the apprenticeship services campaign. Atchison said the association is reaching out to many other organizations to work alongside them.
“We’ve sent out invitations to other regional construction associations (such as) the Vancouver Regional Construction Association, the Southern Interior Construction Association, the Northern Regional Construction Association, the Vancouver Island Electrical Contractors Association, Mechanical Contractors Association of Road Builders, and anyone who is connected to roadbuilders as well,” Atchison said.
“As we get more and more into this campaign, anyone or any association that can help us gain access to the small and medium sized employers that we wish to register for this program are going to be welcome conduits.”
Both the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum and BuildForce Canada have previously cited a need for new workers to enter the labour force as a wave of retirements continue to hit the construction industry, and Atchison said the campaign is meant to address the ongoing crisis.
“I think we need to continue to do the good work that we’re doing to get the messaging out there that construction’s a great, high opportunity occupation,” he said. “Whether it’s newcomers coming to Canada who have preexisting experience in construction or people coming out of high school considering what their next steps are going to be, or people who are in mid-career who have always longed to work with their hands and roll up their sleeves and want to embark upon the apprenticeship journey, we want to make sure that we have a program and an industry that is welcoming to them.”
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