August 31, 2021

THERE IS A BUZZ of optimism about the future of British Columbia’s trades training system.

Almost 20 years have passed since B.C. opted for a modularized and deregulated approach to training the next generation of apprentices. This correlated with declines in both apprenticeship completions and Red Seal certifications, an increase in construction workplace injuries, and a narrowing and shallowing of worker skillsets.

But the times may be changing, and here’s why:

  1. Three provincial government administrations over the past 3.5 years have held stakeholder consultations on skilled trades training. The most recent advisory working group included representatives from labour, education and industry. Combined, the expert voices on this working group number in the thousands, indicating wide support for the thoughtful restoration of compulsory trade certification.
  2. In accordance with their mandate letters from Premier John Horgan, both Advanced Education and Skills Training Minister Anne Kang and Parliamentary Secretary for Skills Training Andrew Mercier have been tasked with restoring the compulsory trades training system. Their mandate letters direct them to work with the Industry Training authority and use compulsory trades to improve safety and give more workers a path to apprenticeship completion.
  3. A poll commissioned by the BC Building Trades and conducted by Research Co this spring indicates overwhelming, widespread support among British Columbians for a return to compulsory trades training. Support transcended political preferences showing 90 per cent confidence in trades certification leading to safer work, increased consumer confidence and an expectation of quality workmanship.

“We have all these reasons to be optimistic,” said Brynn Bourke, interim executive director of the BC Building Trades. “History has shown us that the evisceration of the trades training system was a grave mistake that destroyed the apprenticeship journeys of thousands of workers and students. Now we have an opportunity for a course correction – let’s take it.”

B.C. remains the only province in Canada without compulsory trades certification. That means training is not legally required to work in a trade, and therefore anyone can wire a house or work on the brakes on a vehicle.