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Online tool supported by CAF and IUOE aims to improve pass rates in apprenticeship system

Angela Gismondi
Online tool supported by CAF and IUOE aims to improve pass rates in apprenticeship system

The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF) and the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) are working in partnership to develop an interactive online tool to help apprentices prepare for and pass examinations.

The tool will be piloted with 2,000 apprentices in the heavy equipment operator and mobile crane operator trades starting this year and running until 2025.

The announcement was made at the CAF’s national conference by federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough.

The pilot, Improving Pass Rates and Learning Outcomes for IUOE Apprentices, is being funded through the Government of Canada’s Union Training and Innovation Program (UTIP) and will be delivered in partnership with the IUOE.

The objective is to improve pass rates in the apprenticeship system and increase exam pass rates for apprentices, including those with learning disabilities, by providing them with access to the tool, said Emily Arrowsmith, research and project manager with CAF, who is leading the project.

Some apprentices make it through their training programs but struggle to pass the final multiple-choice examination.

“It is hoped the tool will better prepare apprentices to pass the exam the first time, saving time and energy and building learner confidence,” Arrowsmith said in an email to the Daily Commercial News, adding the results will be tracked, reported and communicated.

The program also aims to gather and apply best practices, share any positive apprentice outcomes based on research data and, if it’s successful, encourage other unions and employers to adopt exam preparation best practices.

In a 2020 Apprentices in Canada ePanel survey, test anxiety was a barrier to completion for 18 per cent of respondents, explained Arrowsmith.

“A high prevalence of learning disabilities and ADHD, which affects executive functioning, difficulties with managing stress and shame associated with asking for help are all barriers for apprentices,” she said. “Not passing the exam leads to low completion rates. Previous Statistics Canada cohort studies indicate the completion rates are 50 per cent. Based upon CAF-FCA’s 2020 LMI research, trade specific completion rates vary from 33 per cent to 66 per cent.”

One day in-person workshops that review studying strategies and how to approach multiple-choice exams have proven to help apprentices pass the certification examination, she said, adding not every apprentice has the opportunity to attend one of these workshops.

“IUOE does provide help when studying for the exam during in-class training, but additional supports and supplemental information may be helpful to apprentices,” said Arrowsmith. “Apprentices themselves have identified in an Apprentices in Canada ePanel survey that online exam preparation strategies (53 per cent), preparatory workshops (43 per cent) and relaxation techniques (30 per cent) would be helpful resources to them.”

As part of the UTIP, the federal government also announced an investment of $63.5 million over five years for 68 projects to help develop a highly qualified skilled trades workforce and prepare them to fill available jobs as the Canadian economy begins to recover from the pandemic, indicates a CAF release.


Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.

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