Canada needs a training plan

Over the course of the past ten years, Canada's Building Trades Unions (CBTU) have been consistent in our message about the need to improve Canada's training system. This past March the federal government heard us and provided $85.4 million over the next 5 years to support our affiliated unions' ability to train the Canadian workforce of the future. Canada faces a critical shortage of skilled trades' people in the next few years due to a variety of factors including demographics, economic demand, and an underperforming training system.Skills training is largely a provincial jurisdiction. Each province designs and maintains its own system for classifying and regulating the apprenticeship system. Union training centres and programs have been traditionally funded by a combination of union dues and contributions negotiated with employers in union collective agreements. In order to deliver apprenticeship training the training centres must qualify under the applicable provincial legislation, use the provincial curriculum and meet provincial standards. Just one of our affiliates, the United Association - UA (The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada) has 57,000 Canadian members. Over 10,000 of those are apprentices. They maintain 32 training centres) and spend over $50 million on training every year.CBTU's affiliated unions have a long history of providing trade-specific training and apprenticeship programs. We train all comers, including the non-union worker. Our training commitments are not just for apprenticeships, they extend to graduate level training of all sorts, including for high pressure welders, welders on exotic materials, quality technicians, high voltage applications, instrumentation technicians, post tension applications. As an employer on one of the biggest hydroelectric projects in Canada, having a skilled and trained workforce is of the utmost importance to being successful," says Don Delarosbil, Project Manager for Astaldi Canada, contractor for Nalcor Energy on the Muskrat Falls Project in Newfoundland and Labrador. "This funding will allow unions and their members to be job ready so when we make the call for hundreds of skilled workers at any given time, they arrive at our job site in short order with the necessary skills and training to ensure we safely achieve our production targets."Our members are at the heart of the middle class, the engine of the Canadian economy. CBTU and the affiliated unions it represents have worked over the years to become the trusted partner of the federal and provincial governments for skilled trades training programs. Union jobs and skilled trades jobs writ large are good for Canada. They provide workers with reliable market driven wages and economic growth for the country. At every step along the way, CBTU stands by the Canadian workforce, unionized or not. The policies that we advocate for, the work we do to ensure that workforce is safe, that compensation is fair and sustainable for families, we do not just for our members, but for Canada. We are a trusted partner of the government on issues pertaining to the skilled workforce.In the next 5 years, we will work with ESDC, owners, contractors, and workers to maximize skills based apprenticeship training. The $85.4 million that was allocated for union-based training enshrines the importance of our partnership with government and the responsibility we have to work with other stakeholders to ensure that we build the best possible skilled trades' workforce for Canada. The government's commitment of this money demonstrates their interest in having a hand in the system again – this is an important step for the economy. A national approach to a national training issue.Christopher Smillie is Senior Advisor, Government Relations and Public Affairs, for the CBTU – Canada's Building Trades Unions.