“On the third Apprenticeship Recognition Week in British Columbia, B.C. New Democrats want to thank apprentices, the employers who sponsor them, and their teachers and schools for the work that they do to grow our province’s pool of skilled workers.
“But it’s telling that this is only the third Apprenticeship Recognition Week after 15 years of the B.C. Liberal government. The B.C. Liberals have spent most of their time in government dismantling the systems that supported apprentices to get training, get a job and get certified.
“In 2002 the B.C. Liberals dismantled the Industry Training and Apprenticeship Council, cutting the staff by 90 per cent, firing apprenticeship counsellors and closing all the regional offices. They eliminated the concept of compulsory trades so that anyone could work in any field and the value of a completed apprenticeship was devalued. They also abandoned any requirement for apprentices on publicly funded projects.
“The inevitable consequence was fewer apprenticeship completions and a shortage of skilled workers. The use of temporary foreign workers skyrocketed. By 2012 the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said that skills training was the number one barrier to business.
“These days, Christy Clark’s government has a lot of media events about training programs, but across B.C.’s economy, which employer has the worst record on hiring apprentices? Christy Clark’s B.C. government and the broader public sector.
“The reality is that fewer than half of trades students finish the programs that they start. The biggest reason is that there aren’t enough employers taking on apprentices. In B.C. 80 per cent of training is on-the-job, so if you can’t find an apprentice sponsor, then you can’t get the training that you need to complete the program.
“B.C. New Democrats want to change that. We’ll make it a requirement to have a significant number of apprentices on public projects that receive provincial funding – projects we intend to build like SkyTrain, twinning the Trans-Canada Highway, and energy conservation retrofits on public buildings. Our plan will get locals working on these projects in a way that creates not just jobs, but careers.
“This week we say thank you to everyone who helps build B.C.’s pool of skilled workers, and pledge to do our part to help make your job more successful.”