Kelly Lapointe - The latest report released by the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF) aims to connect information for apprenticeship stakeholders across the country.
"We really started to recognize that we were having conversations that were narrow instead of remembering that there's not one thing that makes apprenticeship work, there are many things that make apprenticeship work," said CAF executive director Sarah Watts-Rynard.
Bringing together data and best practices from across the country will hopefully help the stakeholder community address pressing issues.
Watts-Rynard said apprentice retention is a huge issue across the country.
Though there are many areas that affect apprenticeship, the report focuses on: registration and completion trends; career awareness; employer engagement; mentoring and technology.
These themes address common and persistent areas of pan-Canadian interest.
For all major trade groups in 2011, 79 per cent of apprentices continued, 11 per cent discontinued and 10 per cent completed their program and received their certificate.
In Canada, there is a lack of consensus on how to calculate completion rates.
"Greater consensus around completion rates could result in a number of positive outcomes including improved policy decisions and more accurate comparisons of apprenticeship to other post-secondary systems. Standard completion rates could inform discussions about harmonization and skills shortages," noted the report, entitled Supporting Apprentice Success: Apprenticeship Data, Trends and Observations.
The report points to Statistics Canada's cohort studies that track individual apprentices as the most accurate way to track completion rates.
Previous cohort studies indicate the completion rates are 50 per cent (1992/1993), 49 per cent (1994) and 51 per cent (1995).
"Even though there's still a lot of conversation about attracting youth and getting them interested and getting them in the door and giving them the foundational skills that they need, if we've attracted 100 and 50 walk back out, then we've got to figure out how do we keep them in once they've walked in the door," said Watts-Rynard.
The report pointed to previous CAF research that indicates post-secondary students and their influencers have a more positive perception and more awareness of the trades than 10 years ago.
The report points to two major initiatives from the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities aimed at facilitating completion.
The Monitoring for Completions Strategy identifies apprentices at the greatest risk of not completing and provides early intervention assistance, such as literacy and numeracy upgrading and employment services assistance.
The Training Delivery Agent Approval Policy aims to enhance the ability of the province's training partners to provide in-school training that is responsive to the needs of apprentices and geared towards training completion.
Watts-Rynard said there is an interest in the stakeholder community to focus on the expectation of the apprentice when they initially begin their apprenticeship as a retention method.
"My conversations focus on the expectation of the apprentice, the expectation of the employer, the expectation of the mentor and whether or not we're doing a very good job of sharing all those expectations upfront and saying with some degree of forethought, 'here's what the first 100 days in this job are going to look like' so that we get them over the hurdle," she said.
Employer participation in apprenticeship remains at 19 per cent overall, though more than 70 per cent of employers in 2011 said there will be a shortage of skilled workers in their industry in the future.
Of that 19 per cent, construction had the highest level of participation with 34 per cent, followed by transportation (26 per cent), manufacturing and mining (23 per cent) and services and retail (12 per cent).
Common reasons for not hiring apprentices include non-applicability, uncertainty about future workload, poaching, high costs and the thought that apprentices require too much time.
Looking at jurisdictional best practices, the report highlighted the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry training that has developed Industry Champions with the oil and gas sector which meets with influential leaders to encourage the hiring of more apprentices.
They are also encouraged to become more involved in the training of apprentices and implement strategies that support and encourage apprentices to complete their training.
Champions are also asked to contribute to a cultural change and positively influence public perception of a career in the sector.
The government of Newfoundland and Labrador's Apprenticeship Wage Subsidy Program provides wage subsidies of up to $14 an hour to help offset salary costs of hiring apprentices.
Priority is given to apprentices who are in the first or second year of training and members of priority groups such as females and visible minorities.
In the Northwest Territories there are Regional Training Partnership Committees made up of employers, educators, training providers and municipal, Aboriginal and territorial governments, so all parties can have input into the training system.
Effective workplace mentors are also essential to retaining apprentices.
The report noted that it is important to have journeypersons learn about mentoring and specific learning objectives of the apprenticeship program prior to being matched with an apprentice.
It is also imperative to keep in mind that very few journeypersons actually have training or guidance on how to be an effective mentor.
Watts-Rynard hopes to continue tying information like this together for apprenticeship stakeholders to advance the conversation and showcase initiatives across the country.