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B.C.’s skilled trades apprentices land $1M for training amid labour shortages

Coast Capital funding new program to promote training completion
Coast Capital Road to Red Seal program was announced March 6. The program aims to help apprentices complete their training.

As B.C. looks to attract and retain more skilled tradespeople in order to mitigate labour shortages, the Construction Foundation of B.C. (CFBC) is receiving $1 million for a new program that supports individuals who are working towards a Red Seal endorsement. 

The Coast Capital Road to Red Seal program, announced March 6, is all about ensuring that more individuals complete their apprenticeships, said Abigail Fulton, executive director of CFBC. 

The interprovincial Red Seal program sets common standards for tradespeople across Canada and is used as proof that a tradesperson has met the national standard in their trade.

It is predicted that an additional one million job openings will be available over the next decade, with 117,000 openings in the skilled trades, according to B.C.’s latest Labour Market Outlook. 

Many students who are on the pathway to trade qualification and Red Seal endorsement struggle with educational barriers, said Fulton. Completion rates for this training is below 41 per cent in B.C. and 50 per cent across Canada, according to CFBC. 

Those who abandon the program struggle the most with the academic portions of the training, said Fulton. 

“Everybody has different learning styles, and quite often individuals who gravitate towards the trades, not always but often, are not great at book learning,” she said. “They're sponsored into apprenticeships, and then at some point they have to go back to school and then they start having the same problems they perhaps had when they were in high school.” 

Fulton said that if CFBC can increase the completion rate by 20 per cent, it will make a big difference in supporting the gaps in skilled trades. 

Many efforts to solve the chronic shortage of skilled trades across the province focus on attracting those who aren’t already within the industry. This investment takes a different approach by supporting those who have already “put their hands up,” Fulton said.

“They want to be in the industry but are struggling to get through their schooling,” she said. “When it comes to finding solutions for skill shortages, this is a good one because we already have them in the system, but they're dropping out and we want to stop that. We want to keep them in the trades and we want to get them through to trade qualification.”

Fulton describes the investment as “one of the most exciting things I've seen in the decades I've been involved in in apprenticeship training.” 

“There are the usual suspects who show up and are passionate to support the trades such as apprenticeship authorities, the training providers, employers, etc. But it's not very often we get a group that is outside of those traditional stakeholders coming to the table with such a significant investment,” Fulton added.

Maureen Young, vice-president of social purpose at Coast Capital, said the program is working towards the company's goal of building better futures through unlocking financial opportunity. 

“We just started to talk about some blue sky thinking around how you could really make a difference and attack those pain points, and it was through that back and forth in conversation that the construction foundation said, ‘Actually, less than half of people who are initiating the Red Seal Certification are making it through,” Young said. 

One aspect of the program that sets it apart from other educational supports available is the customized approach, according to Young. 

“They'll have a series of conversations with an individual, they'll do some explorations, they might do some assessments, and they're going to be able to come up with an approach that's tailored to that person's unique set of circumstances,” she said.

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