Provinces launch labour mobility agreements

New deal eliminates province-specific training requirements

The province with the best labour prospects has inked a new deal to improve labour mobility for skilled apprentices.

Alberta, the province that has time and again come out on top in Canada in terms of employment and labour opportunities, has partnered with Nova Scotia to ensure apprenticeship training is transferable between both provinces.

Other provinces are following suit. British Columbia and New Brunswick signed a memorandum of understanding to improve mobility for their apprentices. The Atlantic provinces also entered into an agreement alongside the federal government to harmonize apprenticeship requirements in the Maritime region over the next four years.

As part of this latest agreement between Nova Scotia and Alberta, signed in principle at the end of August, both sides will recognize province-specific training, allow for the recognition of apprenticeship work, experience hours and enhance labour mobility between the two.

"We want to make it easier for apprentices and skilled workers in Canada to go where the work is," said Dave Hancock, Alberta’s premier and minister of innovation and advanced education. "The goal of this agreement with Nova Scotia is to streamline labour mobility, increase access to apprenticeship training and ideally help Alberta attract more workers to meet the demands of our growing economy."

For instance, if an apprentice takes a pre-apprenticeship training course at the Nova Scotia Community College, and then moves to Alberta, that training will be recognized. As such, apprentices will be saved from writing additional exams or repeating training courses.

As well, both provinces will work on an agreement to make the process of moving between Nova Scotia and Alberta easier and less expensive for apprentices to continue their education.

The move was lauded by apprentices and labour groups.

"I know a lot of people apprenticing who aren’t being recognized for their qualifications even though they’ve completed their program," said Marc MacNeil, a pipe fitter apprentice in his third year, based in Nova Scotia. "It’s been tough for them to find an employer to take them on, and some have had to retake courses or work additional hours to get their journeyman status."

Earlier this summer, Nova Scotia took steps to modernize its apprenticeship system. The apprenticeship training division was transferred from the purview of the Department of Labour and Advanced Education to a separate agency. Its focus, now, will be getting more employers involved, improving the number of apprenticeship opportunities in the province and helping more apprentices complete their training, said Stephen McNeil, Nova Scotia’s premier.

"This is a win-win for our two provinces — and more importantly, it’s a win for our apprentices. Today’s reality is (that) workers are moving all over the country. Our job is to make sure they have clear pathways to obtaining their certification so they can take full advantage of the good jobs in our region," said McNeil.

The new trend for labour mobility is echoed in Alberta. Through the New West Partnership agreement (that includes British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan) and the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship, the province has enhanced apprenticeship mobility.

According to the Ministry of Innovation and Advanced Education, Alberta recognizes registered apprentices and journeymen from other Canadian jurisdictions at the same level as they hold at home, and facilitates the transition of apprentices from province to province. As well, Alberta’s training board recognizes the qualifications of journeymen from across the country.

United we stand?

While this is a step toward improving labour mobility for apprentices, where does this leave fully-certified labourers?

According to Employment and Social Development Canada (ERSDC) — the federal agency that oversees the Agreement on Internal Trade (which was revised five years ago) and the Red Seal program — tradespersons are able to place a red seal on their certificates after completing training and examinations based on common practices. That way, a Red Seal-certified worker can work from province to province across the country without the need for further examinations.

"The (Red Seal) project is reviewing various apprenticeship training and certification requirements, such as the sequencing of in-school technical training levels and the total number of training hours for both on-the-job and in-school," explained Julie Hahn, a spokesperson for ERSDC.

That means complications can arise because of the inconsistencies that exist in apprenticeship training and certification requirements across all 13 provinces and territories that may affect apprentices not covered by the internal trade agreement who wish to move elsewhere.

For instance, there exist differences in sequencing for apprenticeship technical training and the content taught at different levels of the program, Hahn explained. Apprentices who wish to move to another province or territory to continue or complete their training may face delays in the completion of their programs if the sequencing of the in-school technical training does not line up.

Labour mobility could fill gaps, Hahn added.

"There may be shortages for skilled tradespersons in particular regions, sectors or trades based on labour market demand."

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