Apprenticeships play a vital role in the forest products sector and have provided generations of workers with the required skills needed in the industry — but they need more support, according to a report by the Forest Products Sector Council.
The international market is presenting unforeseen challenges and apprenticeship programs need to adapt to “ensure the industry’s financial health and prosperity,” said Linking Innovation with Skill: Apprenticeship, Regulated occupations and Workforce Development in Canada’s Forest Products Sector.
The report recommends employers invest more in apprenticeship training. While about 40 per cent of sector employers currently invest in apprenticeship training, this rate of participation may be lower than needed to replace retiring workers and support continued growth and transformation, said the report.
The report also found under-investment in apprenticeship training is due, in part, to uncertainty about returns on training investments. This uncertainty is rooted in two concerns:
•the apprenticeship training model itself, including the location of training, the time required to complete apprenticeships and the relevance of training to current and future industry needs
•the context in which training investments are made. including uncertainty about the economic outlook of the sector, fears that other firms and sectors may “poach” skilled workers.
Of particular concern to the industry is under-enrolment in university forestry programs which is forcing the closure and consolidation of forestry education and training programs across the country, found the report. As a result, the supply of future workers is dwindling just as demand in critical regulated occupations is increasing due to retirements and migration of workers to other sectors.
The sector would benefit from sound, detailed and centralized information about apprenticeship and other training participation rates and trends, said the report.
While information can be drawn from a variety of sources to roughly sketch the state of and trends in apprenticeship in the sector, good human resource planning will demand better collection, tracking and management of relevant data.
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