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New apprenticeship legislation follows European model: Getson

“We've seen advancements in technology all around us. This is similar to the skills that we need for our workforce force going forward to meet with those emerging needs."

Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland MLA Shane Getson, who served on the Skills for Jobs Task Force, says his government looked at jurisdictions around the world to help inform them on recommendations for new apprenticeship legislation in Alberta.

“There were a couple of different models that came to the table ... but the ones that kept kind of resonating were the European models and the Germanic model particularly because a lot of other of those jurisdictions we looked at kind of leaned on them. So that's kind of how we started in the broader sense,” he said.

On April 13, the provincial government tabled Bill 67, the Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Education Act. If passed, the bill would replace the Apprenticeship and Industry Training Act, which the government has deemed as outdated and overly complex.

The legislation is needed because it's time for a refresh, said Getson.

“We've seen advancements in technology all around us. This is similar to the skills that we need for our workforce force going forward to meet with those emerging needs. The old system wasn't meeting those needs as well as it could, and if we were going to try to meet those needs and we needed to refresh, and this is it,” he said.

The bill would update some of the legal frameworks for education in apprenticeships and regulated trade professions and it would also implement recommendations from the task force.

In a press release, the government said BuildForce Canada projects the construction and trade industry will need to hire around 65,000 workers to replace retired workers and to meet expected growth over the next decade. The proposed legislation will also open the door beyond traditional skilled trades sectors to other professions and high-demand occupations.

“When we think of the traditional trades, it's very rigid in that context, but let's look at coding and programming and those type of things. Maybe that's a potential for a quasi-trade in a context where we don't necessarily have to ratify and say it’s for one trade at this point, but the style of learning to get there,” Getson explained.

Getson said the current model of learning isn’t able to catch up for professions like coding and computer programming that are rapidly evolving and advancing.

Getson, who served as the deputy chair for the skilled trades caucus, said part of their role was to look at the challenges, ways to transition and find red tape items and overlap.

Some of the challenges they looked at included perceptions people have about the trades in North America.

“In North America, unfortunately, we kind of put a statement towards the trades, rightly or wrongly, that if you're good with your hands then you go into the trades and if you're good with your head then you go the other route, and if you happen to work for the trades then you can’t be good with your head. And that was completely wrong,” he said.

Another challenge they looked at was people not finishing their trade schooling or moving out of trades entirely.

Over the last six years, registered apprentice numbers have dropped by 35 per cent, from 70,000 to 45,000 mostly due to the economic downturn.

“What was happening is that you’d see a lot of people starting a program. And then the work fizzles out because we've had a downturn. They end up going and doing something else and they don't complete their trades,” said Getson.

Getson believes this legislation addresses this issue.

“It gives more flexibility for the employers, and also for the workers themselves. I strongly believe it offers encouragement through and even prior to people graduating,” he said.

NDP Critic for Advanced Education David Eggen noted concerns with the bill in a statement, including his fear that there's no plan to create jobs to accompany trades apprenticeships.

“I’m concerned that the UCP are attempting to dictate to our post-secondary schools what classes they should be providing after cutting their budgets by $690 million, and that they do not have a jobs plan for Albertans to apply these apprenticeships to."