Tag Archives: trades

Apprenticeship/Journeyman Ratio

Tim Hudak of Ontario is the latest Conservative politician to jump on the apprenticeship is good bandwagon.  Just recently Jason Kenney flies to Germany with a delegation of businessmen to study their world class apprenticeship system.   Even Jim Flaherty as Finance Minister got in on the act before he died.

I know this because I have been lucky enough to have worked with some German trained journeymen.   I learned some valuable tips of the trade that I pass on to the apprentices and young journeypersons who will listen so they are not all lost.  Why reinvent the wheel?   it just keeps coming out round.

In medievial  times  journeymen(French journée) was just a stage between apprenticeship and master craftsman.  Journeymen and their families would travel from master craftsman to master craftsman to learn different aspects and ways of practicing their trade.   The goal was to one day become a master craftsman themselves. (1)

 Working with many  journeypersons is beneficial for an apprentice because they are presented with a variety of ways to produce a product or service and to solve a problem.  It engages their higher level thinking skills as they judge which method is best for them. This is essential for innovation and design.  Journeypersons who work at a variety of different companies gain a catalogue of best practices that they can take with them throughout their working life.  This is why it is called skilled labour.

One of the major problems is that companies look at labour as a cost rather than seeing that a well trained work force is actually an asset.  That is why they cut their investment in training by 40% since 1993. (2).  I have seen too many companies just treating their apprentices as a source of cheap labour.  They keep the apprentices performing one or two tasks and don’t give them the opportunity to explore the full scope of their trade.  At work I would advise apprentices that I heard complaining about the task they were stuck performing to not do  it so good because that is why they were stuck doing it.

This might go back to the very idea of an apprenticeship as being  indentured to another human being.  Just read some of the language in the Revised Statutes of Ontario in 1970 (3) .  I was an electrical apprentice in Ontario in 1968 when the Progressive Conservatives under Premier John Robards ruled and my union employer had a 4 journeypersons to 1 apprentice ration.  It was just the way the system worked, it was fair, it applied equally to everyone.  In 1956 my father agreed to work an extra 6 months as an apprentice in order to keep working rather being a laid off journeyman, it was his choice.

Having a higher ratio means that once you are a journeyperson there would be work for you and you can put your training to good use.   When journeypersons see apprentices as a threat to their livelihood which I have seen happen in the 1/1 ratio system I worked in Alberta.   Journeypersons won’t share their knowledge or model professional behaviour to apprentices on the job because they fear if the apprentice becomes too proficient the higher priced journeyperson is vulnerable to lay off.

A bigger problem we face in Canada which is also a problem in Germany is lack of a coordinated federal apprenticeship education programs. You need a tool like the Ellis chart (7) to figure out all the different criteria.

Ontario in 1978 was still had a Progressive Conservative government but Bill Davis was now premier.  I decided to upgrade my skills and I took a 40 week course to gain entry into the welding trade.  I graduated with two Ontario pipe welding tickets.  Due to a shortage of work  I took my tickets west to Alberta to find that I would have to start at the bottom and challenge my way up.  At work I found they were more interested in my blue print reading skills than my welding so I began steel fabricating.

Another problem we face in Canada is that apprentices are not going through school in a timely fashion.  In my own experience I started steel fabricating in 1980 but it wasn’t until 1988 it became its own trade with its own curriculum and the Progressive Conservative government finally finished Westerra College and it had school space.  I ended up using my 8 years of experience to challenge the exam.  Studies  “showed that accessing any type of technical training greatly increased the probability of completion”. (4)

Studies also show that contrary to what Conservative politicians will tell you that “Bilginsoy (2003) shows that membership in a union is positively related to completion rates.” (5)  So I would suggest to Tim Hudak that he his supply side conservative friends that they fix some of the problems they caused rather than instead of constantly bashing unions.   Here in BC the government is busy rebuilding the apprenticeship system they let go a decade ago in order to boost apprenticeship completion rates and meet the demand for skilled trades people.  (6)

As I mentioned earlier corporations and their conservative friends see labour as a cost that must be kept down at all costs.   The funny thing is that one of the things that leads to the success of the German apprenticeship system that they admire is the German industrial system of union/management cooperation (7)

We need an apprenticeship system that allows our apprentices to develop their higher order thinking and problem solving skills in order to be considered truly skilled labour.

New Scoops – May 3, 2014

13 Very Different Tools To Help Students Find Their Voice

Infographic: Competency-Based Teacher Preparation & Professional Development

How to Be More Productive On Social Media

11 Essential Ingredients Every Blog Post Needs

Moving To Online Teaching: Issues and Resources For Educators – Skilledup.com

21 Ways to Check for Student Understanding

Chalkup: Social Learning Platform, Simple Learning Management.

Jumpstarting Edtech Innovation in Germany (EdSurge News)


Thanks to Allen Beliveau from my PIDP 3240 course  for posting the paper by Bradley D. Hartwig from SFU Faculty of Education “e-Apprenticeship: Establishing Viability of Modern Technology in Traditional Practice”.  Published in 2007 the paper looked at the views of apprentices towards learning their trade online rather than at a traditional vocational institution.  It also looked at the history of the BC apprenticeship system and apprenticeships in general.

One of the problems of the present system is that many apprentices must travel to attend school.  This entails added expenses at the same time you are not working and earning a wage.  In some cases EI will pay you but this is still a reduction in income.  In an e-apprenticeship the apprentice would learn their theory online while doing their practical work in their workplace.  Since there is a 30% non-completion rate for BC apprentices it is simple economics to remove any barriers we can to make sure apprentices successfully become journeypersons.

One disadvantage of this approach is that many employers look upon apprentices as a source of cheap labour.  Many can spend their whole apprenticeship doing a limited variety of the trade related tasks.  Government and institutions would have to spend a large amount of money to develop a comprehensive curriculum and the learning tools to support it.  There would have to be follow up process to make sure that the apprentice was getting the proper coaching and mentoring that similar institutional classes provide.  One advantage of this system is I have heard apprentices returning from school complain about how school failed to replicate the real world conditions of the work place.

Another advantage of an e-apprenticeship is that you can quickly incorporate new technologies and procedures into the curriculum.  In this day and age change is occurring at an ever increasing rate.  A disadvantage of an e-apprenticeship system is that many small and medium sized businesses can not give their apprentices the wild range of training that the curriculum might require.  The government and training institutions would have to insure equality of opportunity for all apprentices right across the province.

The amount of labour and coaching required by online learners is another disadvantage of online learning.  According to Palloff and Pratt (1999) an online course would take 18 hours of instructor time compared to 6.5 to 7.5 hours for a face-to-face lecture course.  There would also be a learning curve in both learner and instructor learning as to how to best utilize the software and learning modules.  This would also require an IT support team as students and instructors ran into computer problems.

One advantage of having the employer take responsibility for the practical training of an apprentice is that it involves them to take more of an interest and ownership over the development of their apprentices.  Journeypersons would have to take on a more meaningful mentorship role.  However one of the main concerns of the apprentices surveyed was that they would miss the camaraderie and connections they get in a classroom.  Also they said they would miss the peer to peer learning and teaching that takes place.  This could be overcome by having gatherings of local apprentices from various trades coming together to learn material common to all trades.  This would also get apprentices out of their trade silos and get new perspectives.

Returning to in-house training of apprentices hearkens back to the days of the medieval guilds.  In some ways going forward is going backwards, but it must be done carefully at this time and involve all stakeholders.  The paper talked about some pilot projects that were using e-apprenticeship and I believe this is the way to proceed.  Since the BC government is investing over $30 million in a new Trades Education facility at Camosun College, e-apprenticeship isn’t on the top of their agenda.

How do you teach this type of welding


Employers Needed

As a graduate of the Durham College welding program I found this article interesting as it spoke to something that I have witnessed over the span of my working life, the looming shortage of trades people.  One of the big problems that we have in Canada is a lack of on the job training that an apprenticeship program requires.  The Conference Board of Canada in 2011 found that spending for on-the-job training had dropped 40% since peaking in 1993.  This despite the fact that a study by the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum found that employers received $1.47 for every $1.00 spent on training.

The new federal government program of Apprenticeship grants and  will only work if employers get on board and hire more apprentices.   To this end the government is working with the provinces to bring in the Canada Job Grant program.  This program will provide $15,000 per person so Canadians can access the training they will need to get jobs in the high-demand fields.  It is hoped that this will encourage Canadian businesses to take on and train more apprentices.

Some employers are trying to get around the skilled labour shortage by bringing in foreign trained workers through the Temporary Foreign Worker program.  This despite an unemployment rate of 13.9% among youths 15  to 24 in January 2014, almost 400,000 young Canadians.  If they are truly concerned about the future employers should be looking to partner with government and educational institutes to train and create opportunities for these young people.

As more and more baby boomers retire from the skilled trades we will need more and more young people to step in and take over.  Apprenticeship is one of the most important mechanisms we have to ensure that we will have a skilled workforce in the future.


Reports and Statistics

A collection of reports and statistics relating to adult education, apprenticeship training and other related subjects.

 Louise Desjardins (2008).  A Glance at the Participation of Adult Workers in Formal, Job-related Training Activities or Education in 2008.  Statistics Canada

Council of Ministers of Education Canada (2012).  Adult
Learning and Education: Canada progress report for
the UNESCO Global Report on Adult Learning and Education
(GRALE) and the end of the United Nations Literacy

Statistics Canada (2012).  Problem-solving Skills and Labour Market Outcomes – Results from the Latest Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey .

McMullen, Kathryn Statscan (2008).  Recent trends in adult education and training in Canada.

Skof, Karl (2010).  Trends in the Trades: Registered Apprenticeship Registrations, Completions and Certification, 1991 to 2007.

Zarifis, George K.  (2008).  VET trainers in public and private training institutions.

PIDP 3210 Rationale


Acetylene, was discovered by Edmund Davy in 1836 but it wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that it was used for welding and cutting steel. So the use of Oxy-Fuel Welding (OFW) by industry predates electric arc welding (Cary, H.B. 1998). In recent years electric arc welding, first Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), and now Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) with their higher rates of productivity have replaced the Oxy-Fuel Welding in the workplace. There is some debate wether Oxy-Fuel Welding should still be taught as it is no longer used in the workplace and it is not necessary to learn oxy-fuel welding in order to learn other welding procedures (Sgro, S., Field, D. & Freeman, S. The impact of teaching oxy-fuel welding on gas metal arc welding skills.” 2008). It is my opinion that oxy-fuel welding is still a useful welding process and is a good skill to learn, especially for those students who want to go on to learn the Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (TIG) welding process. (Covell, R. 2005)

Needs Assessment

In 2001 Vancouver was ranked third for the number of artists and first for artistic concentration (Hill Strategies 2006). Many of these are visual artists working with recycled steel. Vancouver is also home to the growing Maker Movement, people who embrace a do-it-yourself lifestyle and enjoy learning new skills. “Playing With Fire – An introduction to Gas Welding” is a way in which these people, who have little or no experience can get an introduction to the oxy-fuel welding process. Oxy-fuel welding equipment is versatile and relatively inexpensive and flame cutting is widely used in the steel fabrication industries. Using both classroom sessions and practical, hands-on time to practice in the shop, this course will teach students to use basic welding skills in a safe manner. This course incorporates praxis by having students design and build a project that utilizes their newly learned skills, so they will have something to show for their efforts. At the end of the course students will have a basic understanding of how to gas weld safely that they can use to further develop their skills and techniques, in this way the course encourages students to develop ‘lifelong learning’ as a goal.

Competency-Based Education/DACUM Chart

This course uses a Competency-Based Education approach in its structure and design (School of Instructor Education 2012). The course is organized as a series of seven workshops and is directed at students who have no prior experience with gas welding, so learning has to begin at a very basic level. The course is designed so that students learn a series of competencies that build on one another as they learn to take the basic ideas and practical skills associated with gas welding to the point where they can use their new skills to build their own project. The focus is on the learner and students are assessed on how well they perform the gas welding skills being taught and their focus is to continually improve their skill level through practice. Students are trained on real equipment in a realistic, shop setting. The course outlines six goals that students strive to achieve and each goal consists of four to six objectives that students must attain in order to reach the goal. All these are concepts and characteristics of competency-based education as outlined in the PIDP 3210 text book (School of Instructor Education 2012).

Performance Objectives

Performance Objectives give my students a clear understanding of what skills and knowledge they will be learning and how those skills and knowledge would be taught. These performance objectives assure the students that they will have the necessary knowledge to move on to the next level of the course so they can relax and not be intimidated at the prospect of learning unfamiliar concepts and skills. Performance Objectives also assist the instructor in making lesson plans to make sure that all the necessary knowledge and skills are covered. The ten performance objectives I chose are examples representing each of my DACUM goals and were chosen to give an idea of what is necessary to successfully reach each goal. They were selected to illustrate how both the classroom and the shop setting are used to teach students the knowledge and skills to successfully complete the course. Another factor in my choice of Performance Objectives were to show the different methods that will be used to assess student performance and what is necessary for the students to successfully complete each objective and reach the stated goal.

Course Outline

Since my course is a non-credit, general interest course using a workshop structure I felt a brochure would be a better format to use to advertise my course to as large an audience as possible. In a brochure I can use more graphics and pictures that attracts people’s attention and gets them interested in reading the information about my course. This is important as my course is not affiliated with an official school so in order to attract potential students I have to gain their attention and convince them that my course is worth taking. Brochures are a less formal curriculum document than an official course syllabus and I felt it better suited to a course that offers no accreditation to its participants.

My course includes both classroom sessions where students listen to lectures, watch movies and then discuss the knowledge that is presented to them and shop sessions where the instructor demonstrates the competency being learned and the students then practice the demonstrated skill in order to master it. The classroom sessions and demonstrations are designed to give the students the confidence to attempt the skill and be successful. The schedule is designed so students build on the learned knowledge and skills as they move from knowledge about safe practices and basic concepts, to setting up and using the equipment, to brazing, then to welding and they then get to use these skills to design and create their own project. As this is a non-credit course students evaluate their own performance and assess what they need to practice further in order to master the art of gas welding given the criteria contained in the Performance Objectives.

Curriculum Integration and Alignment

Alignment is important as students learn best when the course material flows in a logical and consistent manner. I have designed my course so that it moves from the basic to the complex and the students build on the competencies that they are taught. For example students learn to braze metal before they learn to weld metal even though both processes involve the same equipment and physical skills. This is because brazing rods are composed of a brass alloy that melts at a lower temperature than the metal filler rods used in welding metal making it is easier for beginners to weld successfully using a brazing rod. By successfully mastering braze welding techniques students will then have the confidence to replicate these techniques and be successful when they attempt to weld metal.

A sample of how I integrate alignment into my course is illustrated when we examine how Performance Objective B5 is incorporated throughout the course. Performance Objective B5, In the shop and working with a partner, wearing proper PPE and after checking for potential hazards, light the torch and produce a neutral flame, within three tries” is taught in the second lesson of the course schedule. On the DACUM Chart this Performance Objective is part of goal B, “Set Up Gas Welding Equipment And Use Torch” and is Objective B5 ” Light torch and produce a neutral flame”. In our needs assessment we describe that ” this course teaches students to use basic welding skills in a safe manner ” and before a student can use basic welding skills they must be able to light a welding torch and produce a neutral flame. By connecting our lesson plans to the needs assessment and course rationale we make sure that our students gain the knowledge necessary to reach the desired goals that the course is designed to achieve which is to give students the basic knowledge so they can go on to safely develop their gas welding skills.

Lesson Plan

I chose to develop a lesson plan for the second lesson in my course as the students are taught using both in the classroom and in the shop. The students start out in the classroom reviewing the material covered in Lesson 1 and reporting on their homework assignment (come up with a gas welding fact not covered in Lesson 1). Next the instructor using lectures and videos, the instructor teaches the students principles of basic metallurgy and about the tools and equipment used in gas welding. This gives the students some basic knowledge so they are better prepared to ask questions about the welding process and discuss how the tools and equipment are used. The students then move to the shop where the instructor demonstrates how the tools are used and how to set up the welding equipment. The instructor then answers any questions the students might have before they set up the welding equipment for themselves while the instructor assesses and critiques their progress. By using lectures, videos and discussions I try to appeal to students who learn best by learning facts and figures, the demonstrations and skills practice appeals to students who learn best by doing. The lesson plan tries to take into account the fact that students learn in different ways “Recognizing different learning styles is an important factor in assisting learners to develop practical skills. Catering to the different needs is critical for success.” (Hampton, C., Teaching Practical Skills 2002, p. 84)

The Lesson Plan creates a positive learning environment by making sure that the students are allowed to discuss and ask questions about a subject area before moving on to the next subject area. The instructor also demonstrates a skill or activity in order to give the students a positive model to follow before the students practice the skill or activity for themselves. By working in pairs the students are able to engage in peer learning and correct and coach each other. By assessing and critiquing the students as they practice the instructor is able to correct any bad habits before they become part of the student’s technique. The lesson plan is designed so students develop the confidence to move on to ever-increasing complex skills and successfully master them.


Curriculum development can be described as the process of defining, organizing, combining and co-coordinating content so that it leads learners to the acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes.” (Dunbar, K. 2002, p.31) “Playing With Fire – An Introduction to Gas Welding” provides students with the knowledge and skills they need to safely practice gas welding. It informs students of the competencies they must learn in order to reach those goals. It allows them to assess their learning by outlining the criteria that they must meet in the Performance Objectives. The lesson plans are aligned to the goals of the course and flow from one to another in a clear and concise manner building upon the knowledge being taught from the simple to the complex. By taking “Playing With Fire – An Introduction to Gas Welding” students will gain the “ knowledge, skills and attitudes” to pursue the art of gas welding further and also be better prepared to learn other forms of welding. 


Cary, H. B. (1998). Miller – The History of Welding. Retrieved June 2, 2013, from http://www.millerwelds.com/resources/articles/index.php?page=articles14.html

Covell, R. (2005). Miller – TIG Welding for Street Rods. Retrieved June 2, 2013, from http://www.millerwelds.com/resources/articles/TIG-offers-precise-bead-control-aluminum-Ron-Covell

Hill Strategies (n.d.). Artists in Large Canadian Cities (Statistical insights on the arts, Vol. 4 No. 4). Retrieved from Canada Council for the Arts website: http://www.creativecity.ca/database/files/library/artists_large_cities.pdf

Mishra, A. K., Bartram, J., Dhanarajan, G., Calder, J., John, M., Dunbar, K., … & Grundling, J. (2002). Skills development through distance education. Commonwealth of Learning.

School of Instructor Education, (April, 2012). PIDP 3210 Curriculum Development Course Guide. Vancouver, BC: Vancouver Community College.

Sgro, S. D., Field, D. W., & Freeman, S. A. (2008). The impact of teaching oxy-fuel welding on gas metal arc welding skills.

Tyler, R. W. (2010). Basic principles of curriculum and instruction. University of Chicago Press.





Pre-Apprenticeship Programs

Pre-apprenticeship Courses

Pre-apprenticeship Courses are courses designed to introduce prospective apprentices to the skilled trades.  many are designed for specific groups that are not usually represented in the skilled trades such as women, aboriginals, and people from different ethnic backgrounds.  Some are designed to help integrate people with barriers to employment such as drug or alcohol addictions into gaining productive employment.

The Trade Winds to Success program in Edmonton is an example of such a program.  Here is a report in the Edmonton Journal.