Contact

595 Bay Street, Suite 1202
Toronto, ON M5G 2C2

Em: info@ontarioconstructionconsortium.org
Ph:
416.385.8474

595 Bay Street, Suite 1202
Toronto, ON M5G 2C2

Em: info@ontarioconstructionconsortium.org
Ph:
416.385.8474

THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH, AND NOTHING BUT………

By Phil Gillies Ontario Construction Consortium

This article was featured in ReNew January 2020.
The Closing Shot article in the November/December 2019 issue of Renew, Truth In Training, unfortunately did not tell the whole truth about construction training and apprenticeship in British Columbia.
The article contends that ‘learning a skill and mastering a craft happens on the job working side-by-side with colleagues who have the experience’ is a superior way to learn a construction trade, leaving the impression that going through a full apprenticeship regimen is not necessary or desirable. The author decries the Province’s return to a system of compulsory training standards, preferring the direction B.C. took starting in 2003 – a system that reduced training time by dividing training modules into individual competencies. B.C. thought that by breaking long-established training courses up into shorter, easier subsets that they could bring many more young trainees into the workforce more quickly.
But the move to this model has proven to be a failure.
The move to the skill set model diluted the skills of the workforce, pushed B.C. out of alignment with the national Red Seal Program and led to a decrease in workplace safety.
So, what is the problem with these shorter, watered-down ‘skill sets’ as opposed to full apprenticeship programs that meet the national standards? First and most obviously – the trainee is going to learn less – he or she will not be prepared with the full range of skills that could be utilized on the jobsite. Yes, you can rush more young people onto the jobsites in less time, but they will not be as knowledgeable or well prepared. They will also not be able to adapt as readily to changing market forces. While a traditional apprentice was trained to do A, B, C and D – the portable skill set trainee may only know A. Or B. Or B with some C. What happens when a shift in the construction market suddenly demands workers who can do B, C and some D? The person with the requisite skills may not be available. And the trainee may be left high and dry – unable to meet the new demands.
Then there is the incompatibility of the skill set system with the national Red Seal Program. What is this?
Formally known as the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program, it sets common standards to assess the skills of tradespeople across Canada. It is a partnership between the federal government and provinces and territories. In July of this year the program achieved a national consensus on harmonization of 32 trades – a significant achievement that will allow national labour mobility in the construction industry. Except that many B.C. workers trained under the skill sets regimen would not meet Red Seal standards. Their ability to work in other provinces is seriously impaired.
To look at the safety situation – from 2000 on lost time workers compensation claim rates for young workers (under age 24) fell rapidly across the country. But a study by the Institute for Work & Health noted that in British Columbia the pattern was different. Lost time claim rates trended downward until 2003 but experienced little or no further decline between 2003 and 2007. While this may not be solely attributable to the changes in training standards, it would be a remarkable coincidence if this was not a contributing factor. The skill set regimen in B.C. could well be making construction sites less safe.
The B.C. government is now moving in the right direction. Divergence from national standards is not good for the construction industry. Rushing poorly prepared young workers to the job site is fraught with problems. B.C. is now in the process of reconsidering a fifteen-year process of deskilling which has been, for the most part, a failure.
Of course, there is a place for union and non-union apprenticeship. But regardless of the training provider, we all benefit from a system that ensures the highest standard of training and skill development.