Madam Speaker, there is not much in this world that I know a lot about, frankly, but this is one subject on which I actually do have great personal knowledge.
I am a journeyman carpenter myself and for many years I represented carpenters as a union leader and I did get to deal with the issue of labour market training a great deal. I can honestly say that the very worthwhile bill put forward by the member for Mississauga West absolutely meets a need in industry that was plain and obvious to me, and to anyone who has ever actually had experience in the industry that I represented.
One of the members from the Alliance said that apprenticeship was an ancient tradition, and he is right, but it goes back even farther than he said. It can be traced back to the ancient Babylonian code of Hanurabi, which was the first written reference of a need or an obligation for skilled workers to pass on their skills to the next generation.
I do not think anybody who I have heard speak so far has any problem with the model of apprenticeship. In fact, most people spoke glowingly about what a suitable method it was for the communication of craft trade skills and what a necessary aspect it was of any human resources or labour market strategy.
Where we find faults and what the industry has been telling us for years is that labour market training and the apprenticeship systems in this country are like a patchwork quilt. Virtually every province has its own way of doing things, its own curriculum, its own entrance requirements and its own certification methodology. As a result, as the member for Mississauga pointed out, mobility has really been threatened.
A carpenter who took his or her apprenticeship training in Nova Scotia cannot just move to Alberta when there is a boom and work there because it is a different set of skills. The employers do not know what they are getting as there is no standardized curriculum. Even more important, the customers of the construction industry service do not know what kind of a quality job they will get because there is no standardization.
For years now within the building trade but also beyond, for instance, in the auto industry, the piping trades, any place that has apprenticeship training as an aspect of the work environment, there has been a call for national standards, to somehow pull all these diverse groups working in isolation across the country together under one kind of central committee, a central umbrella. We can call it what we want. I see that the hon. member, in his bill, calls it NATO, national apprenticeship and training organization. We used to throw around the term NATAC, national apprenticeship and training advisory committee. Whatever we want to call it, it should be a forum where business, labour and government could sit down, compare notes, develop standardized curricula and a standardized set of rules for the delivery of training without interfering in the provincial jurisdiction.
We have been aware that this would be a sore point, especially with the province of Quebec. We knew that we would meet resistance there, but no one is talking about the federal government or any national agency interfering with the delivery of the service. All we are asking for is a consultation forum where a group in the province of Quebec, for instance the CCQ, the Commission de la construction de Québec, would be represented on this national organization. They would say “In our province, our entrance requirement is that one has to have grade 10. It is a four year program and the curriculum looks like this. How does that compare with your program in Manitoba?”. If there are any problems then those two would have to be aligned to guarantee the ease of mobility so that Canadian workers could work anywhere in Canada and Canadian industry could be assured that they were getting a known commodity when they hire, and I will use the example of a carpenter because that is my trade.
Apprenticeship as an education model is so well-suited for even today's new industries, even the high tech field, because the people who are involved are not really students. They have an attachment to the workforce. They actually have a job so they are earning while they learn. It is a model that we believe should be expanded far beyond the 44 current trades in Canada.
One hon. member mentioned Germany. The country of Germany has 440 apprenticeable trades. People can apprentice in almost any discipline they can think of. The regimen is outlined in a clear way. They would get a certification so that they could actually call themselves a skilled x , y , or z , whatever occupation they happen to apprentice in.
We believe that having these national apprenticeship and training advisory committees, or NATO committees, in each of the apprenticeable trades would not only serve the needs of industry in providing highly skilled workers of a predictable known quantifiable level of training, but it would also help to promote and expand the whole concept of apprenticeship in a much wider way than currently is enjoyed.
I am terribly disappointed that the government has not seen fit to adopt this idea. We have a minister of human resources but we really do not have a national human resources strategy because we have offloaded that to the provinces. Some people say that is a good thing and some people are not as pleased with that, but at least the federal government should still see that it has a role in ensuring that the delivery of training, which has been signed over to the provinces through various labour training agreements, is at least being taught with a certain set of standards so that they would know they are getting proper value for their investment into labour market training if for no other reason.
I believe the government has missed the boat. I believe it is not only not listening to the member who put the bill forward, it is not listening to industry. It is not listening to key industrial sectors that very much want this. This idea did not just come out the blue. The member did not just wake up one morning and say “I think we should do this”. We are making an effort to meet a demand by the building trades industry, which is the largest single employer in the country. The construction industry and certainly the auto industry, any of the industries that have sectoral councils or are dealing with labour market training other than post-secondary education, are very interested in this model.
When I raise the sectoral council, I believe there is a precedent for the federal government to have a role in setting national standards and that is the model right there. In the auto industry, for instance, there is CARS, which is a tripartite group made up of labour, business and management. They get together and not only set curriculum, they can talk about other things. They can talk about forecasting the labour market needs in that sector and what the intake should be of new people into those skilled trades to meet their anticipated needs. It brings together the actual stakeholders in the training around one central table.
It would not be a costly factor either. In our dialogue with industry most industries have pretty much accepted that they will have to dig into their pockets to fund this sort of thing sooner or later. There was not much opposition to some kind of a training levy being put forward to actually run the nuts and bolts.
All the federal government would really have to do is create the environment. The funding source could be some kind of a joint labour-management contribution in some models. That is what we did in our union. Every hour that a carpenter worked he paid 10 cents into a labour market training fund which was matched by the employer. We would then use that money for the training of our members.
In the province of Quebec they have things figured out in a better way with their 1 per cent training levy which employers willingly pay so that they can count on a high level of labour market training for the workers they very much need.
There is a precedent for this type of thing with the sectoral council. There is a need and a demand, as clearly articulated by industry sectors. The government has missed the boat in choosing not to support this very worthwhile bill.
If we did have the type of national standards that we are talking about, perhaps more young people would be motivated to go into the skilled trades, the apprenticeship trades. As was pointed out, there can be very high paying, satisfying careers in the skilled trades.
We often get this blue collar stigma where people are not willing or this kind of a feeling that one only goes into the trades if one drops out of mainstream education. There are satisfying careers, highly skilled workers in these fields and great entrepreneurial opportunities that come out of the skilled trades. Once one achieves a certain level of proficiency as a bricklayer or as a carpenter one can hang out a shingle and hire two or three friends, and all of a sudden we have another small business starting.
For these and all the other good reasons this bill should have been deemed votable. It should have been passed and in fact it should have been picked up by the government and introduced as a government side bill. My compliments to the member for Mississauga West for bringing forth this important issue for debate, if for nothing else.