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The Federal government spends nearly $2.5 billion for skills training in Canada via training transfers to provincial governments and territories.

Close to $2 billion is allocated for training those who qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) and another $500 million to train those not eligible for EI.

Despite this, the quality and availability of skills training in Canada has been weak. The Federal government is well aware of the skills deficit, as evidenced in the 2013 Federal Budget released in March.

“Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity, Economic Action Plan 2013” offers up a three-point plan for the manufacturing sector to address the skills training shortage, job growth and productivity. Of note is the improvement of the apprenticeship training program to make it easier to get the experience individuals require to achieve journeyperson status. 

The Federal government plans to reallocate $4 million of the funding it provides to provinces and territories for skills training over three years to increase opportunities for apprentices. Perhaps of utmost importance, it plans to reduce barriers to apprenticeship accreditation, including examining the use of practical tests as a method of assessment for apprentices.

These are good measures, but the government must go further to improve the execution of programs for apprentices.  

An example is the approximate $2 billion allocated for skills training for those who qualify for Employment Insurance (EI). Employers and employees pay into the program to take advantage of training programs such as Red Seal, typically a four to six week block of time for a level. As many know, employees leave their employment to train off site for this period and receive pay via EI, but often the federal government arm that runs the program is slow to send cheques to employees and some don’t receive pay until they’re back at work. One reader cited it as such a big issue it has become a deterrant for some employees who can’t survive without pay for such a long period of time.

Since manufacturers already pay EI premiums, the government could consider allocating money directly to manufacturers who in turn would commit to paying employees on time during training and also implement more apprenticeship programs in their shops to help train future machinists, welders and manufacturing engineers.

A well executed apprenticeship program would go a long way in ensuring highly skilled workers to sustain and help grow manufacturing in this country. SMT

Mary Scianna, Editor, Shop Metalworking Technology Magazine

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