Apprenticeship registrations bounce back, certifications lag

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Michael Lewis
Special to Ontario Construction News

After tumbling during the pandemic, the number of new registrations in apprenticeship programs rebounded in 2022 to surpass pre-COVID-19 levels with the highest total since 2014, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada.

Spurred by hiring demand and government training incentives for the recruitment of skilled tradespeople, 81,141 Canadians registered in an apprenticeship program in 2022, an increase of 8,430 or 11.6 per cent from the previous year.

Certifications, though, remained below pre-pandemic levels, having declined by 0.8 per cent or 354 to 46,777 in 2022 from 2021.

The number of certifications in 2022 remained shy of 2019 levels in all provinces and territories except Ontario, with six provinces reporting decreases in the numbers of certifications compared with the previous year.

Ontario reported 13,666 certifications in 2022, exceeding the 13,152 reported in 2019 on increased certifications for tradespeople including electricians and millwrights.

As demographic shifts and high retirement rates drive demand in the trades, transport, and equipment operator categories, key industries such as construction and fabricated metal product manufacturing are facing acute labour shortages.

According to BuildForce Canada, 309,000 new construction workers will be required by 2030, driven by the expected retirement of 259,100 workers or 22 per cent of the current labour force.

Demand for skilled workers coincides with an increase in new registrations in almost every building trade compared with the previous year, Statistics Canada says in its Daily report.

For some trades, such as carpenters, heavy-duty equipment mechanics and electricians, the number of new registrations exceeded their 2019 pre-pandemic levels.

The number of new registrations in comparatively lower paid trades such as community and social service workers, early childhood educators and assistants and food and beverage services remained below their pre-pandemic levels.

Most provinces and territories reported an increase in new registrations across all apprenticeship categories in 2022 from the previous year, with numbers surpassing their 2019 pre-pandemic levels in many jurisdictions. The largest increases were in Alberta, Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan.

In 2022, however the number of Canadians certifying in the trades remained below pre-pandemic levels. While apprenticeship registrations historically far exceed the number of certifications, the gap was made worse by the pandemic when public health measures forced the closure of worksites and prevented apprentices from completing their programs.

Trades in the service sector, such as food and beverage services and hairstylists and estheticians, were disproportionately affected by the closures and its effects persist three years after the onset of the
pandemic.

Conversely, certifications exceeded their pre-pandemic levels in groups, such as landscape and horticulture technicians and specialists, millwrights and refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics.

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