Right now Employment Minister Jason Kenney is leading a Canadian delegation to Germany and the U.K. to study their apprenticeship systems. He hopes to apply “best Practices” to Canadian apprenticeship systems. The German “dual system” is world renowned and the unemployment rate for youth in Germany is 8% compared to 14% in Canada at the same time that energy projects in western Canada can’t find enough skilled labour.
Many people point out that aspects of the German system is incompatible with the Canadian reality. German children are streamed into a trades education when they are as young as 10 or 11. German industry has always had a strong presence in the training of apprentices who work at the same time they go to school. In contrast Canadian companies have cut investment in employee training by 40% since 1993. Germany’s rigidly designed apprenticeship system is very successful in creating accredited, highly skilled workers but they are also unable to advance into jobs that require college or university training.
In Canada we have a variety of provincial apprenticeship programs and the federal government has recently announced an Apprenticeship Grants program to encourage more young Canadians to purse the trades as a career choice. One of the biggest challenges we face is the fact that almost 17% of all registered apprentices fail to complete their training. I think one thing that we can learn from the German system is the way in which the government, business and trade unions work together co-operatively to make sure that German workers receive some of the best training in the world.
The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum in a 2011 report recommended that employers coordinate details of technical training, that promising practices in mentoring be promoted and that labour market information be used to encourage training in trades where the employment prospects are strong. Hopefully as the federal and provincial governments work to build a strong apprenticeship system these recommendations are followed up on.