Tradition Trumps Fast & Cheap

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Lee Loftus, President

When I was a young apprentice I learned my craft from the best, a group of old, European men who would arrive at the construction site with their fedoras and sports coats. I would watch as they carefully hung up their coats and hats, pulled on their overalls and opened their leather tool bags, ready to get to work.

From these masters, I learned the value of mentorship. They busted me hard, pushed me for perfection, taught me, re-taught me, and over time I became a great tradesperson.

I was given the opportunity to work across the industry and master the full scope of my trade on petro-chemical, pulp & paper, mining, shipbuilding, residential, commercial, and institutional jobs.

That method of mentorship, that recognition of the trade as a craft, has been the backbone of our apprenticeship system for centuries.

For the last 12 years, the very integrity of our craft has been under attack. Training standards have been revamped and certifications fast tracked by people who see us only as hard hats and steel-toed boots, our trades as interchangeable, our workers as replaceable, and our apprentices as dispensable.

This past year saw a critical opportunity for trades training in B.C. The McDonald Report was recently released and it was a complete report of apprenticeship and mentorship in B.C. The report identified many of the failures we’ve experienced in the last decade, but fell short on fixing the issues.

The Industry Training Authority Board was reconstituted and Industry Training Organizations were dismantled, to be replaced by Sector Advisory Groups and funding allocations were redirected to in-demand trades.

These measures alone are not enough. The vision for apprenticeship remains in question. Those of us in the trades understand the steps that need to be taken to build a strong and dynamic training system. Our training school instructors, our dispatchers and even our employers continue to provide advice to government and industry on how to deliver apprenticeships.

Yet, just as before, those who need to listen are ignoring the message in favour of faster, cheaper alternatives.

The decision makers at the governance level don’t understand the apprenticeship model. Their commitment to the use of apprentices in our workplaces is missing. The mandatory requirement for accreditation is absent. Those around us who want our skills do not understand the concept that technical and practical training have to be done over time.

The valuable time we spend on construction sites, learning the art of our trades, combined with the hours we spend in our classrooms, honing that art, is a proven method for successful apprenticeships.

It appears only tradespeople really understand this concept.

As I get older, I have come to appreciate the time and commitment those old masters gave me. And I feel the weight of responsibility to pass those skills on to the next generation.

Those of us committed to my craft, the insulation trade, will continue down the road we know works best. We will train the way we have in the past and ensure the survival of the insulation industry—in spite of those who are working counterproductively.

I know the other affiliates around the BC Building Trades table will do the same.

The question is whether we will be standing alone or if industry and government will step up and support full-scope trades training, balanced classroom and onsite training, along with a strong mentorship system.

BC Building Trades

Career Starter

Looking for a career with a good, high paying future?
Use the tools below to get started...

 Find a trade  Start an apprenticeship

BC Building Trades

Monday – Friday | 8:30am – 4:30pm | closed holidays
phone: (778) 397-2220 | fax: (778) 397-2250
email: info(-at-)

» For additional contact information see the Contact Us page