I just got this from my boss a couple of days ago. I wasn't quite sure exactly what you were looking for, but I tried to answer the questions that were posed on the link I received from the website.
To give you a little preamble first, I'm the director of training for Canada and a representative of the United Association in Canada. I represent 56,000 members, including 10,000 apprentices in the piping trades. That's plumbers, pipefitters, welders, sprinkler fitters, refrigeration mechanics, and all that. Our organization represents 340,000 members total, including in the U.S., and we have been in operation since 1889 as an organization. We are the largest private training organization in North America outside both U.S. and Canadian militaries. Our annual budget is around $270 million a year. That's paid for by our membership.
What in my background qualifies me to speak to you today? I have about 40 years in the trades, multiple certifications and training completed, and involvement at every level of training for youth in apprenticeship and technical careers. I will speak to you on some of the points you outlined. Again, this was short notice for me; I wasn't quite sure what you were looking for, so I didn't do anything formal.
With respect to youth underemployment after completing their education, the different organizations that collect information on youth and trades and apprenticeship in Canada have told us that the age of apprentices gets higher every year, with some as old as 29 just starting in their career as a tradesperson. They usually have several courses already completed, with some of them obtaining certificates in business or education. We get apprentices all the time who have multiple certifications from universities and colleges. They spent their youth learning something that they did not consider wisely: it either did not have a job or career waiting for them or it was based on personal interest and not economics.
These are choices that must be made early in life. Youth must have direction early to avoid these types of mistakes. Many times the advice they get on career choices does not include trades, apprenticeships, or technical careers because of the traditional push for higher education. That has not changed in many years, or since I've been around, anyway. It leads to many highly educated people who have no work opportunity or career to follow. They are left with large debt loads to repay.
With respect to youth unemployment and how it harms the transition to the workforce, there are projected to be over 500,000 positions available for trades workers in Canada in the next five to 10 years, with huge numbers of highly skilled tradespeople retiring. The immigration department is working overtime to find out how they will process all the people they are planning to bring into Canada to fill this shortfall, and how they will find and assess the right skilled workers to fill these positions.
Government policy has a huge effect on apprenticeships and youth with the cancellation of, for example, the TransCanada east-west pipeline. This will result in hundreds of apprentices not being able to complete their terms. With the resulting unemployment, they will probably turn to another form of work to make ends meets. Our industry must always plan tentatively when the political will of the country arbitrarily cancels megaprojects like the east-west pipeline and the LNG plant in British Columbia. There's a huge list of these projects that come and go. This creates issues for companies, construction workers, and architects alike when planning their future, which is based on that economic reality.
With respect to volunteerism and internships and how they inform work decisions for students, volunteering in any form is a great way for youth to see how the world has treated others—especially those who have lost their health, fallen on hard times, or so on. I can't say enough about that. Internships with companies and organizations are a great thing as well, and give students and workers a great perspective. However, when it comes to trades and technology students, many times the interns are free or much cheaper than an apprentice who is trying to start their career. These apprentices end up either not completing their apprenticeship or must leave their community to find work elsewhere to be successful. This is especially problematic when many training centres and colleges are completing large numbers of trainees. I'll use Ontario and British Columbia especially as examples. On the surface it's a great idea for some fields of work, but it's not a great thing for the trades or technical workers.
The fourth area is the school-to-work transition strategy in Canada compared with international models and programs. The international models used in Germany, Norway, and Ireland are examples of the European way of preparing youth for a future in the world. We studied why their system has a much younger component in the trades and technology fields especially, with a very young age for apprentices compared to the Canadian workplace. I was in Dublin last year to meet with the government, union, and industry representatives in Ireland, with a delegation from our industry. This included a representative from the Red Seal secretariat. We saw their method of getting young people involved with their credit system that awards credit for all schooling toward higher education, something that is lacking here in Canada.
Germany has a system where their high schools have apprenticeship credits that go toward their future in the trades or technology sectors if that is where they want to go. They are directed to pick a stream-of-work opportunity before they ever leave school, and can change if needed but take their credit with them toward another field of work. This translates to mobility across the European Union for workers, where in Canada we have no recognition, which stops workers from going to another province, let alone another country. Our system must evolve in the way it does things to catch up to the systems used internationally.
There are too many government regulators involved in apprenticeship, with a system in which every province has autonomy and does its own thing without the full opinions of the industry being considered. The best model for apprenticeship includes a tripartite approach with government including specialists in apprenticeship; worker groups including union and non-union in an equal mix; and industry, including clients, owners, and contractors, whose futures are at stake when projects don't go right and whose costs escalate because they don't have people with the right skills for the job. We all have a vested interest in the success of a project and must work together to get the right skills.
The model for training in apprenticeship is proven and has mostly not changed since the code of Hammurabi defined the first master-servant working relationship that was apprenticeship in 2500 B.C. The people who define how it is regulated and who decide what is to be taught and who pays have changed greatly, and in my experience, if things are done in a correct balance, in which all of the parties listen to each other and everyone has a real say in the final product, then you will get a great product at the end.
In many areas, government regulates completely and industry or worker groups are consulted intermittently. This must change for a functional and progressive apprenticeship system to happen and for the future of the country.
With regard to co-op programs and work-integrated learning, any form of hands-on program that does not send apprentices or technicians into the real world for hands-on skills and then bring them back again to increase their knowledge is not going to be successful in our workplaces. The model of apprenticeship that has worked for us at UA Canada for over 125 years is training with work experience, with more training, with more work experience, and so on. The model we have been using for so long defines our workforce and it is the same model that is used by doctors and other people in the health field.
Working under a skilled tradesperson in the field is where over 80% of the knowledge transfer happens for the apprentice. Work-integrated learning sounds very much like apprenticeship; however, when there is no master technician, tradesperson, doctor, or other certified person overseeing the work and making corrections, coaching, passing on their knowledge of how to complete the work successfully and productively, it fails in its approach.
UA Canada is embarking on a new system for learning that will use augmented virtual mixed realities to teach people anywhere in the world in our fields of expertise, and this will be blended with other technologies, like online e-learning, self-paced, traditional classroom, and many other methods of getting the learning across. However, we will not abandon the principle of having a qualified journey person, technician, or master skilled worker mentoring the worker, overseeing their education in the field, and giving them the benefit of years of experience in their field of expertise. This key principle has worked for thousands of years and cannot be replaced with technology, not yet anyway.
Entrepreneurship is something we are a big believer in for our people. Many of our very largest contractors started out in their field of work as tradespeople or other forms of workers. They learned on the job, completed further training with the UA or with other institutions, and went on to become very successful in their industry. It is a process that should be encouraged at all levels, throughout all programs, as part of the training every trades and technical student receives.
That's it. I don't know if that really fit with what you were looking for. I wasn't quite sure.