Tackling the Skilled Trades Shortage
The Council’s commissioned Study, On the Move, published December 2006, confirmed the growing concerns of Canadian industries over the looming shortage of skilled trades workers. The bus industry revealed its own difficulty in attracting and retaining bus operators, mechanics and related trades.
In 2007, the Council formed a Skilled Trades Commission bringing together influential members from Industry, labour, government, education and manufacturing to strategically address critical human resources shortages and retention with executable action plans.
The Commission is an innovative way to bring together the best thinking of these various groups to identify and develop integrated industry-wide solutions. Some of the keys issues on the table are:
- The current National Occupational Classification (NOC) of bus drivers
- Apprenticeship implementation, enrolment and completion rates
- Accessing foreign workers
- Opportunity to partner with education
- Tuition assistance and/or subsidies
The task strategy is threefold:
- Literature Research and Analysis
- Consultation within Industry
- Consultation outside of Industry including federal, provincial and municipal governments, community colleges and other learning systems, Directors of Apprenticeship and the Red Seal Program
- Development of an Action Plan supporting Industry programs and initiatives through Council administrative resources and funding
1. National Occupational Classification (NOC) for Bus Operators
An application has been submitted to Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC) to establish Certified Professional Bus Operator (CPBO) as a Skill Level B Occupation. This provides recognition of the CPBO as a Skill Level B occupation (a bus operator is classified as a Skill Level C occupation), enhances the Occupation’s image to viable career oriented recruits; potentially accesses funding for Accredited Training Programs under the Skill Level B college equivalency criteria; and, creates an opportunity for permanent recruitment of foreign workers into the occupation.
2. Career Pathway Management Program
A Career Pathway Management Program for “Certified” Professional Bus Operators has been developed to a) structure the content of Accredited Training Programs delivered by Industry and bring Certified Professional Bus Operator Training into conformation with NOC Skill Level B skilled trades and occupations; and b) identify Accredited Training Programs delivered by Industry as equivalent to community college delivered programs for skilled trades and occupations.
3. Pre-employment Program for CPBO
The Skilled Trades Commission is in the process of developing a Pre-Employment program for potential Certified Professional Bus Operator recruits. The program will be accessed nation wide through employment resource centers, training colleges, and various other means of communication. The program is web based and is being developed by Industry and delivered in partnership with a consortium of community colleges.
This Pre-Employment program is the first module in the Career Pathway Management Program and is designed to target and identify viable recruits for CPBO training. It is based on the NOS and evaluates candidates against the Essential Skills Profile for Certified Professional Bus Operators. Cost benefits relate to increased stream of viable recruits; pre-screening effectiveness i.e. post secondary educability; fewer incompletes during training; pre-training occupational specific knowledge e.g. National Occupational Standards for Certified Bus Operator, certified principles of Air Brakes, Crisis Assessment, Conflict Resolution, etc.; reduced number of incompletes; reduced training requirement; increased workplace tenure.
Project Proposal submitted to HRSDC during 2008. Status – In Approval Process
The Commission continues to gather research data on the cost/benefits and other factors influencing the successful implementation of engaging in apprenticeship programs. A Study released by the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF) entitled Return on Training Investment (ROTI) illustrates the Net Benefits of apprenticeship for several occupations including Heavy Duty Mechanic. Over the four-year program, the Return on Investment is calculated as +$96,015.80 and with tax credits +$111,015.80. The complete Study can be downloaded from the CAF at www.caf-fca.org
In the Study, On the Move, Industry members discussed their experience in implementing apprenticeship programs. Concerns over the high cost to the employer in setting up and running the program and subsequent loss of Apprentices to higher paying organizations when the apprenticeship was completed were identified. Companies tended to not use an evaluative process to gauge the return on investment for introducing such program; and, were
not aware of the various government tax credits and incentives available to support delivery of apprenticeship training.
Consultation with community colleges indicates that while employers report that Apprentices who complete and certify usually leave for higher wages, the employees report the reasons for leaving were workplace culture, conditions, and thirdly wages and benefits. It is also thought that the recent percentage increase in Apprenticeship completions may be due to an improvement in Employer best practices, wages and benefits, to compete for and retain employees in a diminishing workforce.
The Canadian apprenticeship trend has turned positive since the mid-90’s, reflecting steady increases in the number of new registrants each year. Apprenticeship enrolment rates have risen every year since 1996, after a period of declines in the early 1990s. In September of 2008 Statistics Canada released the 2006 figures. A record 328,165 men and women registered for training programs, up 11.7 % from the previous year and the largest year-over-year increase since 1991. As of 2006, registrants in the motor vehicle and heavy equipment trades group which includes several bus industry trades totalled 64,930; a +73.4% change for the period 1992 to 2006 and +10.0% change between 2005 and 2006.
There has been a -4.8% decrease in the annual number of apprenticeship completions over the period 1992-2006, and a -1.0% change between 2005 and 2006.
Nationally, 20,855 people completed their apprenticeship program in 2006, up 1.5%. Three trade groups accounted for more than 60% of completions: metal fabricating, motor vehicle and heavy equipment, and electrical and electronics.
However, what is concerning is the number of withdrawals from motor vehicle and heavy equipment trades, standing at 21%. This trade is second only to building construction at 30%. While both these groups have the highest registrations, they also have the highest withdrawal rates.
Reasons for not finishing an apprenticeship program
There was not one major factor but rather a multitude of factors that explained why discontinuers left their apprenticeship program. The reason most often cited by discontinuers (16%) for not completing their program was that there was not enough work in the trade to warrant continuing or insufficient income as an apprentice to meet their requirements.
About 10% of discontinuers stopped their program because they had received a better job offer. An additional 8% of discontinuers stopped because they disliked the work or the working conditions.
A further 8% of apprentices discontinued their program because they wanted to change jobs or careers, became self-employed or lost interest. An additional 4% discontinued their studies as a result of employer, company, or union issues, including problems such as the employer discontinuing the apprenticeship program or not following the rules.
As well, 3 in 10 discontinuers (30%) reported a diverse range of other reasons for not completing their apprenticeship program.
5. Foreign Workers
Opportunities currently exist for bus companies to recruit heavy duty mechanics and other trades which are classified under the NOC as Skill Level B trades. While various foreign “trade fairs” are offered by for-profit facilitators there are opportunities to recruit workers through traditional federal government processes that some Industry members may want to investigate i.e. click on to http://www.credentials.gc.ca/employers/index.asp and find that most Canadian provinces and territories have an agreement with the Government of Canada that allows them to play a direct role in selecting immigrants who want to settle in that province or territory. This site provides an extensive list of community agencies and settlement organizations that may be able to connect you to internationally trained and educated individuals in different locations across Canada. Also, click on to http://www.cic.gc.ca and link to How to immigrate to Canada as a skilled worker
Partnering with a broad spectrum of institutions provides Industry with access to the experience and expertise of the wide range of professional resources that other institutions offer for the development and prosperity of our Industry and its human resources component.
Currently, the Skilled Trades Commission partners with Nova Scotia Community Colleges, Centennial, Fanshaw, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, British Columbia Institute of Technology. This consortium will soon include colleges from Québec and the Prairie Provinces. This partnership is actively developing Best Practices for Apprentice Training, innovative training methodologies i.e. “Coach” Apprenticeship Mechanic training, eLearning Pre-Employment program for CPBO, NOC Skill Level B initiative, and others.
Numerous provincial government partnerships have been developed and that trend will continue as Commission work continues to evolve to address HR Tech needs. Currently, we collaborate with the Ontario Workforce Shortage Coalition and participate in Workforce Shortage Symposiums, providing direction for government, academia and Industry.
The Commission also consults with the Ontario Ministry of Education on its High Skills Major program for high schools. This initiative provides Trades Specific education to better prepare graduates for college trades training. The commission is researching all other provinces and territories to determine whether they have similar programs, to assess the program’s usefulness to Industry’s needs and to determine how that might be developed.
Access to Employment Insurance for School Bus Operators is seen as inequitable by that sub sector in some provinces. The Commission is currently researching this issue but as yet has not been able to offer a strategic solution.