Canada wants carpenters, electricians and different expert trades — and enrolment for apprenticeships is surging

As a highschool pupil sturdy in math and science, Amy Spiers took what appeared just like the pure subsequent step after commencement and earned a level in geomatics engineering. 

However after 12 years within the {industry}, Spiers craved one thing extra inventive and hands-on, which led her to an apprenticeship in carpentry. 

“I’ve all the time liked constructing issues,” mentioned Spiers, now 37 and in her third yr on the Southern Alberta Institute of Know-how (SAIT) in Calgary.

Spiers’s engineering ring may be seen as she works on a mission on the SAIT carpentry lab. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

Spiers is a part of a rising variety of individuals in Canada signing up for apprenticeships amid ongoing labour shortages in most of the expert trades. 

After plummeting throughout the pandemic, the variety of individuals registering for apprenticeships has now bounced again and is at its highest degree since 2014, in line with the most recent obtainable knowledge from Statistics Canada. 

In 2022, 81,141 Canadians registered in an apprenticeship program, a rise of roughly 12 per cent from 2021.

The rising curiosity within the trades is excellent news for industries such development and manufacturing which have struggled lately to seek out expert employees, although the uptick in registrations hasn’t but translated to a surge of licensed tradespeople.

Rising demand

Whereas all provinces and territories have seen an uptick in registrations, “it’s Alberta, Quebec and Ontario which are main this cost,” mentioned Graham Ziegler, who heads the Canadian Centre for Schooling Statistics at Statistics Canada.

A display of hammers inside a wood shed.
A show of instruments is pictured contained in the carpentry lab on the Southern Alberta Institute of Know-how. Carpentry is among the many trades seeing an increase in apprenticeship registrations, in line with Statistics Canada. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

The image seems slightly totally different in every province.

Quebec, as an illustration, noticed most of its development coming from enrolment in packages for carpenters and electricians, whereas Alberta noticed most of its development coming from apprentice electricians, plumbers, steamfitters, pipefitters and heavy-duty gear mechanics.

The common employment revenue for a Pink Seal Commerce in Canada is $111,500, in line with a latest report from the non-profit Canadian Apprenticeship Discussion board, although incomes differ considerably relying on the particular sort of commerce. 

Industrial electricians, for instance, earn round $182,200 a yr, whereas hair stylists and barbers earn round $44,700, the report mentioned.

The rising curiosity in varied varieties of trades is taking part in out within the hallways and school rooms at SAIT, which is among the nation’s largest post-secondary establishments for apprenticeship schooling. 

SAIT has seen an almost 20 per cent enhance in its apprentices within the final two years, from 5,494 within the 2021/2022 college yr to six,541 to date this yr.

Officers anticipate that curiosity will proceed to develop, and are including one other 1,000 apprenticeship seats for the upcoming college yr to fulfill the anticipated demand. 

“It is a good factor,” mentioned Jim Szautner, SAIT’s dean of apprenticeship.

“It was very well-known that people within the trades have been growing old and would age out and retire … so it is very refreshing to see that we’re having new of us are available.”

Getting old workforce, speedy development create alternatives

Licensed tradespeople are certainly an growing old sector of the workforce, mentioned Ziegler of Statistics Canada. The variety of tradespeople aged 55 or older grew between the final two census surveys in 2016 and 2021, whereas the variety of youth tumbled, he mentioned.  

“All of this coincides with rising job vacancies for licensed tradespeople, which almost doubled from Q3 of 2019 to Q3 of 2023,” he mentioned.

“So actually there are some challenges, however I feel there’s additionally a chance for these contemplating a profession within the expert trades.”

A man wearing a ball cap, safety goggles and ear plugs stands in front of a shelf carrying planks of wood inside a carpentry lab.
Eric Corbin, who’s a part of the carpentry program on the Southern Alberta Institute of Know-how, poses for a photograph contained in the establishment’s carpentry lab. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

The chance created by this demographic transition is a part of what drew Eric Corbin to the trades. 

Corbin, who can be enrolled in SAIT’s carpentry program, had beforehand labored at a ski resort, however was pissed off by the amount of cash he was making. He needed a profession with a long-term future.

“I knew that [we would] be shedding plenty of older tradespeople, and now it is form of one of the best time to study from them after which hopefully take their jobs sooner or later,” mentioned Corbin, 33.

“I knew it was one of the best place to be.”

A man sits in an office at the Canadian Home Builders' Association wearing a white shirt and brown suit.
Kevin Lee is CEO of the Canadian Dwelling Builders’ Affiliation. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

Nonetheless, Kevin Lee, CEO of the Canadian Dwelling Builders’ Affiliation, mentioned the present uptick in individuals registering for apprenticeships will not be sufficient.  

An current labour scarcity in that sector is predicted to worsen within the decade forward. Roughly 20 per cent of development employees are anticipated to retire within the subsequent 10 years, a interval through which the federal authorities additionally goals to double the speed of housing development. 

“It is gonna take a while to construct ourselves out of the present state of affairs,” mentioned Lee, who believes focused immigration to draw expert employees additionally must be a part of the answer. 

Certifications nonetheless lagging

One other wrinkle is that whereas the variety of Canadians registering for apprenticeships is rising, the variety of individuals certifying within the trades nonetheless lags under pre-COVID ranges.

That is partly as a result of lingering impression of the pandemic, when closed job websites made it troublesome for apprentices to finish their packages. 

It is also reflective of a broader pattern: the quantity of people that register for apprenticeships has traditionally been far greater than the quantity of people that find yourself turning into licensed within the trades.

The common completion charge for males within the high 15 largest apprenticeship packages in Canada was 47 per cent in 2021, in line with the Canadian Apprenticeship Discussion board. For ladies, it was 34 per cent.

For some individuals and a few positions, that won’t matter. As an example, Lee famous that somebody can have a profitable profession in framing with out essentially turning into an authorized carpenter. 

For others, it does. In most provinces, for instance, electricians should be licensed in an effort to apply. 

Emily Arrowsmith, director of analysis and packages with the Canadian Apprenticeship Discussion board, mentioned certification usually additionally interprets into higher pay and extra alternatives for development. It is subsequently one thing her group tries to encourage as a lot as attainable.

A method to assist slim the hole between registrations and certifications, she mentioned, is to make the trades extra inclusive. Ladies, for instance, could enter apprenticeships however depart earlier than they get licensed in the event that they really feel remoted or unwelcome at their job websites, she mentioned.

Arrowsmith mentioned work underway by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and the BC Centre for Ladies within the Trades is a part of an industry-wide push to make the trades extra welcoming — a transfer she believes will assist the trades to each recruit and retain employees within the long-term. 

Spiers, the carpentry apprentice, mentioned she helps something that may assist individuals of various backgrounds perceive one another and work collectively higher.

A extra pragmatic strategy may additionally assist, she mentioned, pointing to a federal pilot mission that provided ladies grants for finishing their certification. The pilot ended final yr.

“It could be good to have that again,” she mentioned.

A student in a blue hoodie and baseball cap is pictured drawing a project inside a carpentry lab.
College students are pictured within the carpentry lab on the Southern Alberta Institute of Know-how. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

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