The Concerning Trend B.C. of...

The Concerning Trend B.C. of Apprenticeship Completion Rates: Future Improvements

by Sarah Leung
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

For those looking for work in the trades, they benefit from proper certification. Individuals need to complete a trades apprenticeship, where they gain on-the-job experience under an employer. While certification offers advantages such as more job opportunities, larger wages, greater job security, and greater career advancement, not every apprentice completes their program. A Statistics Canada dataset reveals that B.C. apprentice certification rates have struggled to reach over 50 per cent in the last decade.

Besides 2023, whose numbers are yet to be released, these rates have fluctuated between 44 to 51 per cent from 2013 to 2022. B.C. only recently started to require certification in some trades under its new Skilled Trades Certification. Until 2023, B.C. was the only province to allow non-certified individuals to work in trades.

Explaining Apprentice Certification

Apprenticeships combine job experience with classroom training. These programs range from one to five-years and most last four years. At the end of their apprenticeship, apprentices take an exam for their Certification of Qualification (CoQ) or Interprovincial Red Seal.

All apprentices need to take the CoQ exam, which is needed to take a Red Seal exam. CoQs certify B.C. tradespeople to work within the province. There are 54 trades classified as Red Seal, which certify individuals to work across Canada.

Job Outlooks for Apprentices in B.C.

A survey conducted by BC student outcomes in 2022 said that 98 per cent of apprenticeship students were employed full-time. In the previous year, 99 per cent of apprenticeship students were working full-time. In both years, most of those respondents enrolled in electrician programs compared to other trades.

Construction is another field that sees great promise. Apprenticeship certification saw a country-wide drop during the pandemic but a few “construction-related trades” saw stable and slightly increased certification between 2020 to 2021. Statistics Canada credits this stability to construction’s designation as essential during the pandemic, meaning many restrictions did not impact the field as significantly. B.C. sees value in the construction sector as well. WorkBC’s Labour Market Outlook for 2022-2032 forecasted approximately 72,700 construction job openings, the third-highest within major industries.

Factors of Low Certification

Despite the positive employment rates and outlooks, this fails to explain the low certification rates. The B.C. Chamber of Commerce in 2021 looked at ways to improve these apprenticeship completion rates. They recommended that the province should reintroduce mandatory certification, which is now in progress. Among the Chamber’s findings, they outlined circumstances around these low numbers:

  • Program registrations and certifications have increased, but these rises applied to a “small number of trades and a subset of newly established subtrades” that do not grant workers the same benefits as Red Seal trades, which require country-wide certifications.
  • The rates implied the lack of mandatory certification decreased motivation for apprenticeship completion.
  • C. faced the largest decline in Real Seal certification when comparing 2001-2004 rates with 2011-2014.
  • C. tradespeople suffered four times the amount on injuries on the job compared to those in Ontario. This implies that the BC system did not ensure the same amount of workplace safety.

With more mandatory B.C. certification increasing its reach this year, this implementation will help push certification within the province. Though the past trend indicated low numbers, more mandatory certification seeks to equip tradespeople with the necessary training and expertise expected within the B.C. labour force. There is a future in the trades.

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