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Apprenticeship forum calls for leadership

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After visiting Germany and the United Kingdom to study the education and training systems, Canadian leaders say a shift in the country's approach to apprenticeship requires leadership from industry.

After visiting Germany and the United Kingdom to study the education and training systems, Canadian leaders say a shift in the country's approach to apprenticeship requires leadership from industry.

“Somebody has to take the lead,” said Christopher Smillie, the senior advisor of government relations and public affairs for the Canadian office of the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO at the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum’s Skilled Trades Summit in Ottawa.

“No one is deciding, everyone is throwing everything at the wall and hoping it sticks.”

The panelists attended a tour of the education and training systems in Germany and the U.K. this spring with employment minister Jason Kenney and noticed vast differences between them and the Canadian system.

The panel spoke about Germany’s system which saw many more careers with apprenticeship components and recruiting students at a younger age. There are no set apprenticeship ratios and that decision is left up to the employers.

“At the end of the day, we have a fragmented system and we have to work within it,” said Smillie.

In Canada, it is incumbent on everyone in the system to talk to government and tell them what industry wants to help improve the various apprenticeship systems across the country.

There is also a need to backstop these wants with research.

“I think the onus is on industry associations to work with individual employers,” said Sean Reid, federal and Ontario vice-president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA).

The panel also noted that employers in Germany are there from the beginning and apprentices are not receiving training in the hopes of getting a job because employers have already said yes to hiring them.

by Kelly Lapointe

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