Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you all for the opportunity to speak with you today.
I serve as the executive director of the Canadian Welding Association, which is a part of the Canadian Welding Bureau, better known as the CWB Group.
Since 1947, the CWB has been an independent, non-profit organization funded solely by the industry it serves. With offices in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia, the CWB's team of 160 staff provides services right across the country. The majority of our services are provided on the shop floor, where we provide guidance and oversight to multiple industry sectors involved in welding. The CWB is accredited by the Standards Council of Canada as a certification body, and it is the only national organization with a primary focus on welding.
Today, the CWB has over 6,000 welding fabrication companies certified across Canada and around the world. Our primary mission is to help protect the safety of Canadians. To support this mission, CWB provides services not only to Canadian organizations but also to organizations around the world that supply welded structures and products to Canada. One of the biggest issues facing Canadian welding is that this sector is in the midst of a skills shortage. With an aging demographic and a strong demand for welding professionals in several industries, including mining and natural resources, an active effort must be made to attract young people to the industry and to ensure that we have the trained labour force required to meet the needs of industry now and in the future.
Skilled tradespeople earn their living in a variety of work environments. Some work in clean and pristine plants, while others may work in conventional plants or outdoors on pipelines or various construction projects. Regardless of the work environment or the field of trade, safety is of the utmost importance. Both employers and employees must meet and observe proper safe practices.
To ensure that Canada can continue to produce highly trained skilled tradespeople, our industry recognized that a national training curriculum for welders would provide colleges and other training institutions with a current and comprehensive approach to create a first class generation of skilled trades.
In response, the CWB has invested $3 million in a new and comprehensive national training curriculum resource for the welding trade. Known as Acorn, the program was developed with input from both industry and educational sectors, and it was launched in 2015. The Acorn training curriculum includes components that can be used at both the secondary school level and the post-secondary level right across the country.
At the secondary school level, the CWB has committed to provide this training curriculum resource to provincial boards of education at no charge. This is to help ensure that the next generation of potential welders receive a world-class learning experience that assists them in making educated choices about the long-term career opportunities in the welding profession.
This unique approach to learning includes extensive use of virtual reality and immersive learning approaches to both fully engage the students and ensure that concepts are understood and retained.
Another area in which CWB is providing leadership is in our industry, in the area of apprenticeship. According to the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, only one in five, or 19%, of employers take on apprentices. The CWB is undertaking a new initiative to engage more employers in training and to improve the welding apprenticeship programs across Canada as part of a five-year study. Apprenticeship programs are provincially regulated and have some variances. The Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship is working to harmonize trades training across Canada, and welding is one of the trades that are being harmonized currently.
Canada is undergoing a critical skilled trades turnaround as the baby boomer generation is retiring in great numbers, and employers are experiencing difficulties in finding skilled welders and metal fabricators in particular. Poaching is an issue for many, as those who can afford to pay more will find skilled welders at a premium rate. This approach will only drive the cost of labour up, and it is not a long-term skills shortage solution.
The CWB recognizes this challenge faced by our members and the welding industry to remain competitive and profitable in today's challenging economic environment and global marketplace.
Through our enhanced welding apprenticeship training initiative, we would like to help employers attract and retain employees with the right skills, encourage continuous skill upgrades to take advantage of new processes and technologies, develop a culture of innovation and creativity, and recognize the connections linking quality, productivity, and profitability.
The CWB feels that more can be done to ensure the long-term success and sustainability of the welding industry in Canada through better leveraging Canada's welding apprenticeship programs. The CWB wants to enlist industry's involvement in this new initiative to address the shared industry challenges by working co-operatively.
This fall we're rolling out the enhanced welder apprenticeship training initiative, and the ambitious goals of this initiative are to increase apprenticeship enrolment, increase completion numbers of welding apprenticeships by 30% over a five-year period, improve the welding skills of apprentices by providing a broad range of training opportunities in a variety of workplaces, and increase the level of employer engagement and participation in apprenticeship training.
We plan to set up industry consortiums, one in each province to start with, consisting of about a dozen employers in each. We plan to add more consortiums as the demand grows. Initially, the industry consortium will be set up in Vancouver, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Montreal, Moncton, Halifax, Charlottetown, and St. John's. Our program includes a five-year study of a new method of apprenticeship training, and includes the rotation of apprentices every 12 months or as agreed by the employers. We believe that this new model will better engage apprentices in learning welding skills, expose them to a variety of welding processes and products, and allow them to learn from a large number of skilled tradesmen.
As part of our research project, we will provide labour market analysis, with forecasts for welder demand by 2025, and conduct employer and apprentice surveys to gauge their satisfaction and solicit their feedback on how the program could be improved. We plan to provide regular reports of our progress and share this information with industry and government.
Our industry is embracing this initiative. We feel it's crucial to the long-term viability of our industry. We're looking for partners to commit to a co-operative training program as part of our five-year study on how a new collaborative model of apprenticeship innovation and training will ensure a strong and well-trained pool of skilled welders for our future success.
Thank you very much.