B.C. introduces skills trade legislation to address shortage, ICBA president believes it won’t work

The provincial government is proposing to bring back a mandatory trades certification system to encourage peop…

The provincial government is proposing to bring back a mandatory trades certification system to encourage people towards a career in the trades.

New legislation was introduced on Tuesday to establish a homegrown system “to support and train apprentices and modernize the Crown agency responsible for trades training,” the province said. If passed, certification for an initial 10 trades will be implemented in phases between 2022 and 2024.

B.C. is the only province in Canada without compulsory skilled trades certification after being eliminated in 2003. B.C.’s Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training, Anne Kang, says this has put workers and employers at a disadvantage.

“We want apprentices in British Columbia to be able to count on having good, family-supporting jobs with steady work once they complete their training,” said Kang. “With 85,000 new job openings expected in the trades by 2031, there are so many opportunities for meaningful work in B.C.”

Once implemented, individuals in one of the 10 initial mechanical, electrical and automotive trades will be required to either be a certified journeyperson or a registered apprentice to work.

“Without a recognized credential, it can be challenging for workers to transition between employers, which increases barriers for workers to gain stable employment, resulting in lost or lower wages for workers and their families, especially for people who already face greater barriers to employment in the trades,” said the ministry in a release.

The agency overseeing trades training, the Industry Training Authority, will also be renamed SkilledTradesBC.

Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, believes the recently passed bill the province says will lay the foundation to address shortages, and support tradespeople won’t work.

“B.C.’s trades training system is overwhelmed – there simply is not enough training spaces to meet demand,” said Gardner in a statement.

Gardner says aspiring trades workers wait up to three years on a waitlist to receive the proper training.

“The result is that it can take nearly a decade for an apprentice to complete a red seal designation and get their ticket. It’s a breathtaking breakdown of our trades training system.”

Aside from the need for more training spaces, Gardner believes more modernized training delivery options are required.

“Using technology to deliver some components of trades training will also help deal with another chronic challenge – for many trades, there is only one school offering courses, and it’s located in the Lower Mainland,” Gardner said.

“Bill 4 offers no new training spaces, no training schools outside the Lower Mainland, and no new delivery models.”

The ICBA is the single-largest sponsor of trades apprentices in B.C. ICBA’s open shop members sponsor 82 per cent of all trades apprentices in B.C., according to Gardner.

The first 10 trades that required certification are gasfitter Class A and B, steamfitter and pipefitter, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic, sheet metal worker, powerline technician, industrial electrician and electrician (construction), heavy-duty equipment technician, automotive service technician and autobody and collision technician.

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