Apprentices in Canada – From 199,074 in 2000 to 405,699 in 2017 with only 51,150 certification in 2017

Despite short-term fluctuations, overall strong economic growth over the last two decades in areas such as construction and natural resources, combined with an aging workforce, have contributed to increased demand for skilled tradespeople in Canada.

The total number of people registered in apprenticeship programs in Canada has grown sharply since the end of the 1990s, rising from 199,074 in 2000 to 405,699 in 2017. However, the number of new registrations and certificates granted has declined in recent years in the wake of fluctuations in the economy such as the 2008-2009 recession and lower oil prices in 2014-2015.

Moreover, data from the census suggest the workforce is aging at a faster pace in the trades. Among workers who had a certificate of apprenticeship or a certificate of qualification, 26.1% were aged 55 years and older in 2016, up from 23.2% in 2011. Among those with a university degree at the bachelor level or above, the share of workers aged 55 years and older increased by less than one percentage point, rising from 16.8% in 2011 to 17.7% in 2016.

After two annual declines, the number of new registrations in apprenticeship programs stabilizes

Focusing on year-over-year new registrations to apprenticeship programs, the number of registrations edged down 0.6% in 2017 compared to the previous year. This decline is smaller than those in 2015 (-14.7%) and 2016 (-9.7%), which coincided with the significant decrease in crude oil prices from mid-2014 to the end of 2016, resulting in higher unemployment in the resource-rich provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.

From 2016 to 2017, total employment rose by 1.9% in Canada, marking the largest employment growth in 10 years. These employment gains may have contributed to improved apprenticeship training opportunities in some sectors during this period. Ontario, in particular, reported 6.8% more new registrations from 2016 to 2017, largely due to gains in construction and automobile manufacturing related major trade groups. Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories also recorded an increase in new registrations in apprenticeship programs in 2017.

Despite the increasing need for skilled tradespeople, the number of certificates awarded to individuals who completed the necessary steps to become qualified in a trade has declined over the past few years. The number of certificates granted fell from 55,230 in 2016 to 51,150 in 2017 (-7.4%). This was consistent with declines in previous years, where the number of certificates fell from 59,409 in 2014 to 55,230 in 2016 (-7.0%).

Chart 1
Certification rates of apprentices who registered in a selected trade in 2010

Many apprentices take longer than their program duration to receive a certificate
When looking at the progression of apprentices in 19 apprenticeship programs from 2010 to 2016, 20.2% of those who newly registered to a program in 2010 received their certification within their program duration, while 38.8% did so within 1.5 times of the program duration.

There are a number of factors influencing time to certification. These include completion of on-the-job hours, technical training, compulsory status of programs and the successful completion of the certification exam.

Median employment income of apprentices who obtained a certificate in a selected trade in 2010

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at The Daily — Pathways and earnings indicators for registered apprentices in Canada, 2008 to 2016

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