Canada's premiers have signed an agreement that will facilitate the mobility of apprentices across the country.
The Provincial-Territorial Apprentice Mobility Protocol will enable mutual recognition of technical training, work experience and examination results for apprentices moving from one area to another.
The premiers have set a Jan. 1, 2016 deadline for the training and hours successfully completed by apprentices in one jurisdiction to be recognized by all other jurisdictions across Canada.
This premier-led development is intended to strengthen and modernize internal trade in the country.
"The freer flow of goods, services and people across Canada will help create the conditions for enhanced economic growth across the country. Reducing labour mobility barriers – including apprentice mobility barriers – will support major projects in every jurisdiction and help to build a skilled domestic workforce," reads a statement from the premiers.
Across Canada there are about 350,000 apprentices and close to 100,000 more enter the system every year.
Sarah Watts-Rynard, executive director for Canada Apprenticeship Forum, explained that the protocol is good news for the country.
She said the labour market demand is not consistent across the country and it makes good sense to encourage apprentices facing a shortage of work in one part of the country to move to work elsewhere, where employers could well be facing acute shortages.
"Making work hours and technical training fully transferable chips away one of the disincentives for moving – a concern among apprentices that their experience would be discounted," she said.
Currently most provinces and territories require an incoming apprentice to show evidence of their work experience including providing technical training letters from past employers, an up-to-date logbook and college transcripts.
Watts-Rynard said it is going to continue to be important that apprentices and their employers know what paperwork is required to facilitate a move between jurisdictions and what will be required to meet the standard of the receiving province/territory.
The Canada Apprenticeship Forum is developing a labour mobility tool designed to assist apprentices by providing this information.
"Given that most provinces have a process to assess prior learning and accept apprentices into their system, I see this as a formalization of something most jurisdictions were already doing," she said.
However, Watts-Rynard noted that Jan. 1 is an ambitious deadline to get the project off the ground.
She explained that the change is likely to require additional capacity to communicate an apprentice's status between jurisdictions.
It is likely that the tracking systems used are very different and the resources required to pull information may not be readily available.
Other major changes that are already underway, such as apprenticeship harmonization, may also make the deadline challenging.
As for particular requirements in the provinces, there are major differences in some trades and very few in others.
Watts-Reynard used insulators as an example.
In Nova Scotia, this trade requires 8,000 hours whereas, in Alberta, it's 1,600 hours.
Under the protocol, the apprentice will be required to meet the standard of the receiving province.
Their work hours and technical training will be credited, but if this protocol doesn't harmonize the requirements, apprentices will have to meet the criteria of the place they're moving.
"Apprenticeship mobility is an important issue because employers experience peaks and valleys in demand," Watts-Reynard said.
"When one part of the country or one sector is experiencing labour shortages, another may be laying off apprentices – people who are actively looking to complete their work hours and training."