June 21, 2012

Canadian Apprenticeship Forum needs champions

As it loses federal funding, the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF) has launched its Apprenticeship Champion campaign, calling for champions of apprenticeship to come forward to support a national research, discussion and promotion mandate.

Outgoing CAF chair Pat Blackwood, director of skilled trades at CAW Canada, said if CAF doesn’t receive sponsorship, it will have to shut down operations.

“That would be devastating to the apprenticeship communities, that would be devastation to the youth of Canada, that would be devastation for what’s facing us,” he said at this year’s conference recently held in Regina.

CAF is an inclusive national body that brings together all players in apprenticeship training and creates a national dialogue. Under the guidance of its board of directors, CAF has brought to light a number of key issues that affect apprenticeship training, including perceived barriers to training, the business case for apprenticeship, and the importance of promoting apprenticeship training as a valued and respected choice for post-secondary education.

“It’s an opportunity for the various stakeholders to exchange ideas, to talk about what they’ve been doing, to examine their success and to ultimately talk about their failures. We can improve the growth and use of apprentices in the marketplace,” said Canadian Construction Association (CCA) chair John Schubert.

CAF’s board of directors learned last July that operational funding would be discontinued as of March 2013 as part of cuts to the federal government’s Sector Council Program. CAF’s has been examining options to allow CAF to continue its national apprenticeship mandate.

“With 12 years of government funding, we’ve built something truly unique — a national collaborative body that brings the stakeholder community together to solve apprenticeship challenges,” said Dave Suess, CAF’s incoming chair and apprenticeship learning advisor at Suncor Energy.

“We’ve become a place where the apprenticeship community comes together to share its successes and collaborate to effect change.  It’s time for stakeholders who recognize this value to step forward and put some skin in the game.”

Blackwood called apprenticeship an answer to the looming skilled labour shortage in Canada. In construction alone, Canada will need 319,000 new workers between 2012 and 2020, according to the Construction Sector Council, which is also losing its federal funding along with all other sector councils.

“It is a way of passing on those skills and creating a viable career path for our youth,” he said, adding that it will help on two fronts.

“It’s going to help for the future of those highly skilled jobs and it’s going to make Canada a more stable place to bring work into this country.”

He said CAF cannot rely on the government.

“We’re trying to make this thing survive, but we can’t do it alone, we need your help. Hopefully when the government sees that we have the community behind us. Maybe they’ll get back in the game.”

Schubert has confidence that the Canadian trades community will pull through for CAF.

“There are enough stakeholders who are involved who believe in the importance of the operation. I’m pretty sure they’ll stand forward and make sure it continues. I wouldn’t give up hope.”

More information about membership levels and benefits are available at the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum website or by e-mail.

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