Thank you very much.
Thank you for the invitation to appear today as you undertake the pre-budget consultations.
The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum was pleased to submit a brief summarizing our recommendations about how the federal government can provide leadership in an underserved area of post-secondary education.
The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum influences apprenticeship strategies through research and collaboration. We connect employers, unions, regulators, educators, and under-represented groups to share promising practices and promote apprenticeship as a valued post-secondary pathway. Apprenticeship is the original and best example of work-integrated learning available to young people with a talent for practical, hands-on problem-solving. It's a pipeline for a talent segment that is critical to Canada's productivity. Quite simply, Canada would be at a standstill without its tradespeople, the men and women who keep the lights on, the water running, and our cars on the road.
While apprenticeship training is the primary responsibility of the provinces and territories, there is a significant role to play at the national level, and that's where I want to concentrate my remarks. Sector after sector identifies skilled trades positions as among the hardest to fill. Infrastructure investments rely on a workforce that's capable of building, repairing, and maintaining it. Autonomous vehicles, sustainable energy, and advanced manufacturing require highly skilled, hands-on professionals who understand how things work, and how to make them work better. Innovation, productivity, and competitiveness across economic sectors rely on skilled tradespeople, most of whom develop their skills as apprentices.
A highly productive country is one that encourages its citizens to fire on all cylinders. That means assigning value to the technical and mechanical skills developed in the workplace, at polytechnics, and in union training centres. To do so, the federal government must develop a national vision for vocational education and training. There is scope to support experimentation, measure and evaluate the impacts, and be a catalyst for national adoption of best practices.
While there are many excellent examples of world-leading programs, policies, and supports across the country, they are often isolated by geography and lack financial resources. For apprentices, access to these programs is often about luck of the draw.
As a user of skilled trades services, the government must also take a greater responsibility for linking its infrastructure and procurement spending to apprenticeship training. This makes apprenticeship a business imperative and addresses the job insecurity of apprentices, which can delay or derail their progression, completion, and certification.
While employers assume the bulk of the apprenticeship training burden, training isn't their primary business objective. Though there are business benefits, they must navigate the hiring process and on-the-job training, as well as regulatory and educational systems. Many employers consider apprenticeship training a no-brainer for their business, yet others sit on the sidelines unsure of how to get started or muddle through doing the best they can. To ensure that employers are empowered to deliver high-quality workplace training, they need on-demand supports and resources.
While I believe these to be important objectives, even national imperatives, for a more productive Canada, I am also aware of the real and on-the-ground consequences of inaction. An apprentice recently told me that he is disappointed with his training. Journeypersons on his job sites have little time to train apprentices, and little idea about what to teach. They aren't the mentors he was expecting. The work is sometimes precarious, and employers are reluctant to sign off on apprentice skills development, so this apprentice doesn't know if work will be plentiful next month, or if he will be sitting on the out-of-work list. When a job ends, he doesn't know if he will be unemployed for three hours or for three months. Apprentices need consistent employment to progress and complete their training, and government can lead the way.
It is an economic certainty that we need young men and women to become skilled tradespeople. In your deliberations about the upcoming budget, and innovation and productivity, I urge you to consider how we can best support apprentice learners on their journey to certification. It will be this group that makes up the next generation of builders, fixers, operators, and creators.