Apprentice Mobility in Canada
1.1 Introduction CAF-FCA undertook a national research project on apprentice labour mobility to learn about jurisdictional requirements, barriers, employer perspectives and apprentice relocation experiences. By establishing a more comprehensive understanding of mobility barriers, the apprenticeship community stands to be better positioned to develop targeted solutions around the ongoing employment of apprentices, enhancing opportunities for completion and addressing regional labour market imbalances.
CAF-FCA consulted each of the jurisdictions, interviewed 54 apprenticeship stakeholders and surveyed 176 employers and 222 apprentices. Insights were gathered about motivations for relocating, mobility barriers and potential supports. Stakeholders from all regions participated in the research.
Survey results are broken down by firm size, sector, apprentice level and province-of-original registration, allowing for detailed analysis about the groups most impacted by mobility issues.
1.2 Overview of Apprentice Mobility Process An overview of the processes involved with apprentice mobility provides context to interview and survey findings. Typically, apprentices seeking to relocate have to identify an employer willing to sponsor them. The apprentice then has to register in their new jurisdiction, often requiring that they complete an application form. Even if the move is temporary, apprentices may need to complete a transfer form. The application asks about previous work experience, hours of training, former employers and education. Transcripts and/or a log book may be required as documentation of completed courses or on-the-job competencies.1
The information provided is verified by apprenticeship staff in the new jurisdiction, who may call the apprentice’s former employer(s) and/or staff in the original jurisdiction to confirm hours and completed technical training. Once the review is complete, staff places the apprentice at the appropriate level and the apprentice can proceed with his or her training.
1.3 Provincial/Territorial Agreements Impacting Apprentice Mobility Some jurisdictions have apprentice mobility policies or agreements. In Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick, apprentices are allowed to remain registered in their province of origin and can return to complete technical training, while obtaining work hours elsewhere.
In the construction sector, Quebec has agreements with both New Brunswick and Ontario to allow apprentices to work in the other province.
Mobility agreements to recognize hours and technical training are in place between Nova Scotia and Alberta, as well as New Brunswick and British Columbia. These agreements maximize flexibility for apprentices and employers.
The Apprentice Mobility Protocol, the New West Partnership, the Canadian Council of the Directors of Apprenticeship and the Atlantic Workforce Partnership are exploring how apprentice mobility and harmonization can be further facilitated.
1.4 Main Research Findings
1.4.1 Reasons for Moving
CAF-FCA talked to employers and apprentices from across the country. Most employers were medium- to large-sized construction firms in Alberta. The majority of apprentices were working in Alberta as electricians, carpenters and steamfitter/pipefitters.
According to employers, skills shortages were the main reason for hiring apprentices from outside their jurisdiction. A lack of local labour supply was cited by 60 per cent of employers. Apprentices pointed to limited employment opportunities as the primary reason they relocated, with the follow reasons among the most common:
• limited employment opportunities at home (63 per cent)
• higher wages (45 per cent)
• career advancement opportunities (32 per cent)
• earning hours towards completion (24 per cent)
Regional differences were observed, reflecting varied economic conditions across the country. Apprentices originally from Ontario and the Atlantic provinces were more likely to say lack of work was a factor than apprentices in the west.
The apprentice’s current level of training also influenced responses. Apprentices in first and third year were more likely to cite a lack of work as the main reason for relocation than second and fourth years. Earning hours towards completion motivated third-year apprentices more than apprentices at a different stage of their training.
1.4.2 Mobility Barriers
Half of employers and 75 per cent of apprentices experienced barriers. Both interviewees and survey respondents said the recognition of previous education and work experience were the main barriers to apprentice mobility.
Employer survey respondents identified these barriers:
• technical training / hour recognition (both 32 per cent)
• obtaining the required records from the apprentice’s home jurisdiction (30 per cent)
• placing the apprentice at the appropriate level (25 per cent)
• ensuring the apprentice has the necessary health and safety training (17 per cent)
Apprentices identified similar barriers, but also mentioned relocation costs and distance from family and friends as additional concerns:
• qualification recognition (37 per cent)
• cost (34 per cent)
• being away from family and friends (33 per cent)
• recognition of technical training / work experience (both 26 per cent)
• safety training (10 per cent)
Apprentices noted confusion about the different apprenticeship systems, a lack of community supports, language barriers and finding suitable accommodation were also factors.
1.4.3 Groups Experiencing Barriers to Apprentice Mobility Creating targeted and effective supports requires an understanding of the groups most impacted by mobility barriers. Analyzing findings by sector, firm size, region, employment status and apprentice level provides these insights.
Employers in the mining and construction sectors experienced more barriers than other industries. Larger firms reported greater impacts than small firms.
Region, apprentice level and employment status were identified as factors influencing which groups of apprentices were most impacted:
• Apprentices from Ontario were the most likely to report experiencing barriers.
• Apprentices who did not have a job before they moved were more likely to experience barriers compared to those with secured employment.
• Apprentices who moved permanently experienced fewer barriers than those who moved on a shortterm basis.
• Apprentices who were advanced in their programs were less likely to experience barriers than those starting out.
1.5 Potential Solutions Interviewees suggested potential supports to facilitate apprentice mobility, including:
• support harmonization efforts
• create more online learning modules so apprentices who relocate can catch up on any missed content
• improve communication materials and provide centralized resources
• develop clear guidelines that outline provincial and territorial requirements
• ensure stakeholders are updated on a consistent basis
• hire labour mobility liaison officers to share relocation information with stakeholders
• develop a common online log book so apprenticeship administrators can verify the hours, technical training completed and education credentials online
• create a central registry that addresses privacy concerns, but allows for the electronic storing and transferring of files for easier exchange among jurisdictions and less paperwork for apprentices
• provide financial incentives for moving
Employers identified supports to meet their needs:
• a uniform apprenticeship system across the country (30 per cent)
• a company or system to help look for apprentices in and out of the country (20 per cent)
• assistance with moving costs (15 per cent)
• easier and faster validation of work visa processes (8 per cent)
• adjusting ratios (3 per cent)
• more recruitment advertising (2 per cent)
Efforts to enhance apprentice mobility are worth pursuing because they will support employment for Canadians, progression through apprenticeship programs and skills development in the skilled trades workforce.
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