Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2002   by CARS Magazine

Minister Stewart Visits Apprentices at Algonquin College

Minister Stewart explained that the skilled trades provide good jobs to thousands of Canadians and are essential to the economy. Over the next few years Canada may be faced with a significant shortage...

Minister Stewart explained that the skilled trades provide good jobs to thousands of Canadians and are essential to the economy. Over the next few years Canada may be faced with a significant shortage of people with trade skills.

To support individuals while they are learning these trades, the employment insurance (EI) program provides income support to apprentices during periods of classroom training. Like everyone else, apprentices must wait two weeks before receiving EI benefits. Currently they must do so each time they leave the workplace for classroom training. This has been a deterrent to some apprentices completing training and earning their trade qualification.

An apprenticeship program is a single continuous course of study stretching over a number of years. Therefore, the budget proposed that the provisions of the EI program be modified so that apprentices in approved training programs are subject to only one two-week waiting period, not three two-week periods as has been the case for most apprentices in the past

Minister Stewart then spoke about apprentice Motor Vehicle Technicians experiencing the high costs for tools. These costs have been identified as a potential barrier preventing more young people from taking up the trade. The federal budget proposed to provide tax assistance to help apprentice Automotive Service Technicians cope with their extraordinary tool costs. Beginning in 2002 they will be entitled to deduct for income tax purposes the cost of buying new tools, to the extent that those costs incurred in a year exceed the greater of $1,000 and 5 per cent of their apprenticeship income. The deduction will be available to employee apprentices who are registered in a provincial or territorial program leading to certification as vehicle technicians, for tool costs certified by the employer as having been incurred as a condition of the apprenticeship.

After providing information about these two very positive announcements the Minister responded to a number of questions from the apprentices.

Several industry representatives were invited to Minister Stewart’s presentation at Algonquin College. Keith Lancastle, Executive Director of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, commented that he was pleased the federal government was taking steps to encourage more young people to enter the trades and to complete their training, “It has long been felt that the 2-week waiting period has been an impediment to those working to complete their apprenticeship training. The average age of an apprentice is in their mid to late twenties so going without pay for 2 weeks every time they take their classroom training segment causes serious concerns. The changes in the EI waiting period is a positive and significant step on the part of government and demonstrates a strong commitment to apprenticeship training.”

CARS President, Dan Bell, agreed that the proposed modifications to employment insurance and apprentice tool tax relief are positive steps to assist apprentices across Canada, “Industry has undertaken several different strategies to try to encourage more young people to enter the trades. The support of the federal government through the proposed EI provisions and tool tax relief will help to lower these potential barriers to those entering our trades and complement industry’s efforts.”

Since the Minister’s visit, an official with the Department of Finance provided some clarification that the DRAFT legislation for the apprentice technicians’ tool expense deduction extends eligibility to employee apprentices who are “registered in a program established in accordance with the laws of a province that leads to designation under those laws as a mechanic licensed to repair self-propelled motorized vehicles”. This “eligibility test” is stipulated in lieu of a prescribed list of apprenticeship programs (which vary from province to province). In broad terms, based on the Department’s analysis, apprentice technicians who repair self-propelled vehicles would also include heavy duty, autobody, aircraft, motorcycle, R.V.s, farm equipment, marine, and conceivably others. Ultimately, however, Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (formerly known as Revenue Canada) will determine which apprenticeship programs meet the legislative requirements.

Human Resources Development Minister Jane Stewart recently visited with apprentices at Algonquin College to deliver some good news. After visiting a number of classrooms, Minister Stewart spoke to the budding Automotive Service Technicians about two major changes that will improve the situation for apprentices: a reduction in the total waiting period for EI benefits and tool tax deductibility.

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