Union fights industry’s role in trades training

B.C. Federation of Labour says government shouldn't hand apprentice training over to the private sector
By Uyen Vu
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/06/2005

The British Columbia government wants industry to take the lead in trades apprenticeship training, but it would be a mistake to hand over training to the private sector, says the British Columbia Federation of Labour.

The labour federation was responding to an Industry Training Authority (ITA) document that says an “effective industry training system requires full industry participation and ownership” and that the training model will evolve over the next three years to “result in sharply increased industry leadership, involvement and responsibility.”

ITA is the government agency in charge of B.C.’s new apprenticeship system after it was revamped in 2003 to allow workers to be certified for specific competencies rather than for an entire trade.

The document also says ITA “lacks internal capacity to develop, implement or maintain programs and has no intention to develop that capacity.”

Philip Legg, director of policy at the labour federation, said the document is “a stark admission that the ITA doesn’t have the capacity to do the work and, as a result, plans to hand over training to industry.”

The federation opposes the move, because such a system will place industry needs over the needs of the individual learner, said Legg. If industry trains individuals only for skills that are currently in demand, the result would be learners not equipped with the full range of skills needed to be employable in other provinces and in different markets, said Legg.

Geoff Stevens, ITA’s vice-president of operations, said ITA’s mandate all along was to involve industry in a leadership role in the training system, which he defined as management and co-ordination of the system.

“It would be up to each sector to identify and analyze its training needs and determine a new model of training or a new system of qualifications for training,” said Stevens. It’s industry that employs the workers, and if industry doesn’t feel its needs are reflected in the system, it simply will not participate.”

And involving industry neither precludes the participation of unions nor the possibility of a more traditional apprenticeship training model, Stevens added.

“On the industrial, commercial, and institutional side of construction, they’ve decided that the new, modular system isn’t for them and they would rather stick to the four-year system. And we absolutely support that.”

Under the modular system, for example, the Canadian Homebuilders’ Association could train workers for skills specific to building framing and issue them certificates after eight months.

Casey Edge, executive officer of the Canadian Homebuilders’ Association in Victoria, said the B.C. government is on the right track with a training system that takes into account industry demand. “That’s the way the industry works nowadays. The industry is very modular now. We need people who are skilled in particular aspects. And the most important factor in training students is having jobs for them to go to.”

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