July 5, 2023

How do you ensure the sustainability of the trades?

A 2021 RBC Thought Leadership report predicted that by 2028, over 700,000 skills trades people in Canada will retire. It also said that one of the main challenges facing the sector is the continued underrepresentation of women and immigrants. The challenges are significant, it said. So are the opportunities.

Keeping up with the demand for skilled trades workers in Canada requires more effective action to attract people from underrepresented groups to pre-apprenticeship programs and, eventually, to a promising career. That’s where we come in.

Our work brings colleges and institutes across the country together in ways that maximize our collective impact.

Apprenticeships are work-integrated learning opportunities that combine on-the-job training with classroom learning. They are valuable experiences for both students entering the trades and for employers. Apprenticeships support employers in recruiting new talent and ensure that students graduate with the skills employers need.

  • Pre-apprenticeship programs prepare students to enter apprenticeship systems, develop their job skills and trade readiness, and eventually find work as apprentices.

Colleges and institutes are leaders in accessible learning pathways. As experts in hands-on learning, they offer over 300 pre-apprenticeship programs in over 20 skilled trades. And, over 80 of those programs are designed to support groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the trades.

Three years ago, in partnership with the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, we launched a program to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in the skilled trades – such as women, Indigenous people, newcomers, people with disabilities and youth – and contributes to their success.

Unlocking Inclusive Pre-Apprenticeship Pathways helps those facing barriers to education access tailored training designed to support skills development, applied learning opportunities and the pursuit of a fulfilling career.

We gathered data, conducted interviews, and developed a suite of resources – including an environmental scan, a pre-apprenticeship program inventory, a Diversity and Inclusion tool, and more – to make an impact across the sector.

Make your programs more inclusive! Use the Diversity and Inclusion Tool to evaluate a program at the Pre-Program Delivery, Program Delivery and Post-Program Delivery stages. The tool offers best practices to help make your pre-apprenticeship programs more inclusive to underrepresented groups. 

What now? 

An eye-opening experience. Of 84 participants who successfully completed the program, 77% expressed an interest in pursuing careers in trades-related fields, and 60% expressed a desire to complete an apprenticeship.  

If we want to build a more sustainable trades sector, we need more plumbers, boilermakers, heavy equipment operators, and welders that reflect the diversity of our communities.  

By prioritizing diversity, inclusion, and equitable access to training opportunities, more people can see themselves in trades-related fields.