European apprenticeship systems get employers involved in the process from the beginning, a concept that should be brought to Canada, concluded a panel of stakeholders.
"You don't have anyone involved in training unless there is an employer at the end going to hire. It isn't training for the hope of getting a job, it's training for employers who have already said yes," explained Christopher Smillie, senior advisor, government relations and public affairs at the Canadian Building Trades.
He spoke on a panel of stakeholders at the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF) Skilled Trades Summit who travelled with federal employment minister Jason Kenney to Germany and the United Kingdom to learn more about their apprenticeship systems.
Sarah Anson-Cartwright, director of skills policy at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said their apprenticeship systems were very integrated.
"Here we're very piece-meal. So the question is who are the players that can come together and cultivate more of an all-in proposition...I think it's easier for larger employers, and yet when we look at the composition of where the skilled trades are located and the employer base, it's so much in the small firms," she said.
She added that there are no journeyperson to apprentice ratios and the highly-regulated companies decide what is appropriate.
Also, Germany has countrywide exams despite having states that are responsible for the regulation of apprentices.
"They recognize that they have very different needs, very different requirements of industry within each, but there is still a national strategy where they're all working towards the same goal," said CAF executive director Sarah Watts-Rynard.
In Germany, the chamber of commerce organizes the small firms that may not have the internal infrastructure to do so.
Smillie said educators, employers, labour unions and other stakeholders have to be involved to move the conversation forward in Canada.
"Everywhere we went in Germany, right down to the local city, had a council of all of those people to determine the local economy and who is getting trained where. Somebody has to take the lead," he said.
"The key thing is the conversations that are happening across those two countries, those aren't happening here...Nobody is deciding. Everybody is sort of throwing stuff at the wall and hoping it sticks."
Smillie urged stakeholders to talk to government about their needs.
"Governments with one stroke of the pen can change your business, can change your entire existence," he said.
"It's incumbent on us to tell them what we want. We can't sit around and wait. If we had sat around and waited for something like the Canada Job Grant, then it would never have happened."
>Joe Blomeley, a senior associate with the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, said that Canada does not have a natural apprenticeship culture, making companies more tentative to launch such a dialogue.
"I do get a sense that there is a movement towards wanting to do something like this, become more proactive in the education system, reach in a little deeper," Blomeley said.
"I think you're going to see stuff coming with pilot projects with individual companies, you're also going to see industry begin the discussion about setting up a deeper relationship," he added.
>Sean Reid, vice-president, federal and Ontario, for the Progressive Contractors Association, noted that part of making apprenticeship more desirable in Canada is changing its perception.
"You've got 50 to 60 pe r cent of the (German) workforce in apprenticeships and there's no stigma attached to that," he said.
"We need to be thinking innovatively about how to advance and change the brand of skilled trades," he said.