The Province of B.C. has completed a round of consultation with workers, employers, industry stakeholders and Indigenous people to help implement skilled trades certification.
Officials say the feedback and the reports they generated will inform the supports and services related to implementing skilled trades certification for the 10 initial mechanical, electrical and automotive trades in the province.
Tradespeople and employers were asked to provide input about key aspects of implementing skilled trades certification, including how to help current workers become certified or enter an apprenticeship training program. The consultation also sought to identify supports for employers during economic recovery.
Some of the key themes identified were:
- Exploring more flexible learning options, such as digital and remote instruction, as well as evening and weekend classes so that apprentices can continue to work and stay close to their families and communities while learning.
- Making sure there are enough training seats available to keep up with increased demand and waitlists are kept to a minimum.
- Providing opportunities for early exposure so that more young people choose a career in the trades to replace retiring workers.
- Ensuring a range of supports are in place to help currently uncertified workers successfully challenge exams, especially for older workers and those who have a first language other than English.
- Enhancing outreach and education on available supports so that workers and employers can easily get help with certification when and where they need it.
- Continuing to make trades education welcoming, inclusive and culturally relevant – particularly for marginalized individuals and Indigenous people.
“Create more training options with geography in mind. This is particularly important for Indigenous tradespeople,” said one roundtable discussion participant cited in the report.
When it came to implementing trades certification, the reports noted some employers expressed concerns about how it might impact productivity by making it difficult to find and retain journeypersons. However, the province noted most respondents from both the online survey and roundtables expressed strong support for certification and believe it will provide more rigour and credibility to the trades from a career, consumer safety and confidence perspective.
“How can we deal with the lost productivity and the ability for shops to finance the development of apprentices?” said one of the employers during a roundtable session.
The consultation ran from June to September 2021 and included an online survey (868 respondents), eight roundtables (113 individual participants), more than 30 stakeholder meetings with the parliamentary secretary for skills training, Andrew Mercier, and focused discussions with the Industry Training Authority (ITA) and Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training staff. There were also seven Indigenous dialogue sessions (54 individual participants) to understand the potential impacts on Indigenous people in B.C.
“I was honoured to a part of the conversation, particularly the Indigenous consultation about the best paths forward for apprenticeship in our province,” said Mercier. “A big takeaway for me from the consultation in general was hearing the same things from everyone across the board when it came to issues like the need for accessible and flexible learning options.”
Mercier said he was encouraged by the comments he heard about trades certification.
“Universally we were told it was overdue,” said Mercier. The response was overwhelmingly positive. The biggest takeaway for me was – and we say this in the results of the survey – 75 per cent of parents were more likely to encourage their kids to go into the trades if it required certification. The impact of raising the prestige of trades is real and people recognize that.”
Mercier added when talking about public policy, one can’t lose sight that policy impacts real people. The goal is to make sure skills are being standardized at a high level, people aren’t left behind and those with existing skills are recognized.
“We’re taking a flexible, common-sense approach to implementing skilled trades certification that puts standardizing skills at a high level at the forefront, and industry and Indigenous stakeholders will be involved throughout implementation,” said Mercier.
The 868 provincial survey participants represented workers (47 per cent), businesses (29 per cent) and industry organizations (12 per cent). The demographics included representation from Indigenous people, youth, 2SLGBTQ+, people of colour, new Canadians and other groups that have been historically underrepresented in the trades. Participants from urban and rural settings were also included.
The ITA hosted a survey about its role in skilled trades certification (741 respondents), held nine focus groups (70 participants) and two virtual information sessions (66 participants).
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