Two pieces of news came out of British Columbia that focused on the issue of apprentices and the lack of skilled tradespersons. The first was the announcement by the B.C. Automotive Sector Labour Market Project Steering Committee that it has...
Two pieces of news came out of British Columbia that focused on the issue of apprentices and the lack of skilled tradespersons. The first was the announcement by the B.C. Automotive Sector Labour Market Project Steering Committee that it has completed the second phase of its human resource project for the province’s automotive industry. The project is to ensure that B.C.’s economy has qualified and skilled employees for the future.
“In B.C., the automotive sector is primarily a service industry based around the sale, maintenance, repair and disposal of motor vehicles,” said committee member Wade Bartok of Elite Body Shop in a press release.
Shortly after, the B.C. provincial government released its ‘Skills for Jobs Blueprint,’ a nearly 60 page report outlining strategies in education and training for growing the skilled trades. Part of the strategy includes increasing scholarships, targeted grants for students, investments in post-secondary programs that target in-demand jobs and investments in infrastructure to support the training and education of persons interested in trades.
What is missing in this debate is an effort on reengaging industry to become directly involved in apprentice training and support. Companies of all sorts moved away from direct participation and taking a leadership role in apprentice training. Instead, they shifted that to provincial and federal governments, and to school boards and post-secondary institutions.
These institutions are left lurching from one perceived shortage to another. With the rise of Japan as an economic superpower in the 1980s, high schools closed shop classes and filled them with computers, and hired teachers who could instruct students on programming. Governments promoted the emerging high-tech sector and pushed for a greater emphasis on post-secondary academics to meet the needs of the ‘knowledge’ economy. Alvin Toffler’s ‘Third Wave’ flew out of bookstores with its vision of a post-industrial future dominated by computer technology and high-tech companies. Today, governments and post-secondary institutions are being asked to now take up the cause of skilled trades.
In Europe things are different. Many countries encourage or even mandate, in some cases, that companies have apprentice programs and take an active part in training future employees. The idea is that companies understand what skills they need and whom they are looking for. Companies directly support, along with governments, skills training at the school level and even supply needed equipment and persons for educational programs and schools. Once students complete a program, these companies then hire them and continue to train and support them.
Some industries in Canada do a better job than others of supporting apprentice training. Major companies in the wood industry will often supply programs with equipment for classes and actively take part in the training and support of students.
If we want to fix the skills shortage, we need to also step up to the plate. We can’t expect others to do the work for us all the time.
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