Authors: Janet Lane and Jeff Griffiths
Canada’s trades training system needs rebuilding. Only about four in 10 apprentices complete the program and receive their certificate of qualification. Certified journeypersons are critical to the Canadian economy; they are the highest, broadest skillset holders in the trades. The apprenticeship system has produced many highly skilled and competent journeypersons who are the backbone of their respective industries. Nevertheless, there are hundreds of thousands of people working in the trades without any kind of formal government issued credential.
Many people without formal credentials are doing perfectly well in the trades workforce, however:
>The system has no mechanism for recognizing competent people who are working in perfectly good careers that do not require up to four years of preparation and training.
>There are no credentials that support labour mobility below the journeyperson level.
>It is difficult for people working in one trade to move into a related trade (e.g. plumber to pipefitter) even when they have gained many of the required skills.
The rest of the world has shifted or is shifting to a modular, competency-based model. This is a system where people are credentialed for specific competencies (e.g. blueprint reading, trouble shooting, safe work practices) and can stack these credentials together to qualify for different trades. The modular approach has tremendous advantages. It:
>provides individuals with assurance that they have the skills to perform well in their careers
>delivers people with more required skills into the workforce faster and cheaper
>gives employers practical information on what people can actually do
>allows greater labour mobility geographically (nationally and internationally)
>dramatically improves mobility between trades, which creates benefits for individuals and the economy
challenges the training system to become more focused on delivering required competencies.
To shift to this model, the trades training sector needs to:
1) Accelerate the efforts of early adopters of a competency-based approach to trades training and credentialing.
2) Accelerate the creation of competency-based pathways between the trades.
3) Invite all stakeholders, especially unions, to be part of the move towards-competency-based training and credentialing.
4) Develop a national competency framework for the skilled trades.