Germany and Great Britain, examples for Canada to follow?

Jason Kenney, the Minister of Employment and Social Development, visited Europe in early March. Objective of this trip: to analyze skills-based training systems implemented by Germany and Great Britain. Report on what was learned on a trip that could well find application in Canada.


Minister Kenney, accompanied by provincial representatives, business leaders, persons responsible for education, training and unions, flew for a six day visit to understand the training systems put in place in both countries. The first step of the Canadians’ delegation was Germany, which has the most dynamic labour market in the European Union, with an unemployment rate for young people of 7.8% compared to an average of 23.3% on the Old Continent. Members of the delegation visited the Stihl plant, the Baden-Württemberg alternating training university in Düsseldorf and the Siemens training centre in Berlin. They were able to get feedback from entrepreneurs and students participating in the alternating arrangement. This dual model lets young people follow theory courses in a training institution and put them into practice in a company, giving them the opportunity to both acquire work experience and train in professions experiencing shortages, matching German labour market needs.

An innovative and exemplary arrangement

At the end of this first visit, Minister Kenney referred to the German system as “innovative”, and said he had examined “how these exemplary international practices could be applied in Canada to create jobs and opportunities”. He added that Canadians had much to learn from the learning system established by the Germans. According to him, Canadian enterprises must invest much more in training of young people, in particular to fill skills shortages. The Canadian education system must also collaborate more closely with the business world. Young people must also be better informed about existing learning arrangements in the different provinces. In addition, co-financing of post-secondary training should be considered by provincial governments. Finally, vocational schools should be redesigned overall.

Improvements of the British system

The Canadian delegation then flew to Great Britain to observe the improvements made to the British education system. It met Doug Richard in particular, commissioned by the British government to reform the apprenticeship system so that it meets employers’ needs. It also had discussions with members of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, representing companies in a variety of sectors and trade unions Finally, it was able to collect the impressions of apprentices of the further education college of Wembley and the British Airport Authority Academy at Heathrow Airport who have the advantage of a four year apprenticeship program training them to be electrical, mechanical and electronic technicians.

Skills-based training

Upon his return home, the Minster of Employment said that the “government is determined to ensure that Canadians receive training based on the skills they need to find a well paid job across the country”. This is urgent according to Skills/Competences Canada, since the demand for specialized labour should reach one million by 2020 in Canada. The 2014 Economic Action Plan nonetheless provides several measures to ensure that training matches the needs of the labour market and that Canadians have the skills necessary to apply for job opportunities. Recall that the Canadian Apprenticeship Loan offers them interest-free loans of $4,000 provided they are registered for training in a designated Red Seal trade. Finally, the federal government is working on creating the Canadian Job Grant, which lets employers participate more in vocational training.

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