Apprenticeship: is this the key to successful workforce integration of young Canadians?


Would apprenticeship be the solution to optimizing workforce integration of young Canadians? This is what an American expert seems to think, author of a recent study on the workforce related problems.

Apprenticeship has recently become a subject of recurrent study. At the beginning of March, Jason Kenney, the federal Minister of Employment and Social Development, visited Europe to learn about the apprenticeship based training systems used in Germany and Great Britain. A study titled Expanding Training in Canada sponsored by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and undertaken by Robert Lerman now presents the benefits of this system by comparing the arrangement used in Canada to that of countries such as Germany and Switzerland.

The primary beneficiaries of apprenticeship are the young people themselves who not only learn a skill but are also paid while learning, the study points out. On the other hand, apprenticeship costs much less than a traditional course of study. In addition, apprentices often earn more during their apprenticeship training than if they had worked full time since they clearly would have less opportunities to be trained in a skill. Finally, they have the opportunity to acquire skills that they will put into practise throughout their career and are much more mobile than the rest of the population, the study shows.

Reduced costs for employers

There are many benefits for the employer. These include reduced hiring and training costs, and increased sales and productivity, since apprentices learn new duties faster than others. In Germany, the savings by companies were a little under $10,000 per year in 2010 and about $12,000 for Swiss companies. On a three year apprenticeship, Swiss companies earned over $80,000, and German organizations over $72,000. In Switzerland, the productivity of apprentices rose from 37% in the first year to 75% in the last year, and from 30% to 68% in Germany. In Canada, the additional revenue generated by the work of apprentices went from $120,000 for a cook to $338,000 for a construction electrician, according to a report by the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum and adopted by the Lerman study.

Although apprenticeship has existed for several decades in Canada, it is not as common as in Europe. Here, it is aimed mainly at adults 25 years old and older, while no minimum age limit is required to enter training in Germany. In addition, the arrangement helps very few young people in Canada to make the step from the classroom to the labour market, unlike what happens in Germany or Switzerland.

Promising professional careers

Closer collaboration between high schools and employers is therefore essential, the study’s author believes. An orientation program about apprenticeship should be put in place by Grade 10. This is especially important since an overall increase in company training will give young people the opportunity to have a more interesting career path and reduce unemployment. Apprenticeship can also help certain sectors of business such as banks, information technologies and commerce, by attracting young people and making them aware of the different trades in these industries.

Finally, if the apprenticeship system became more extensive it would allow workers to increase their pay. Similarly, it would reduce the economic pressure weighing on the government about funding of colleges and universities. Robert Lerman believes that if these recommendations on apprenticeship were applied they would generate significant economic benefits for Canada.


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