Supporting skilled trades workers, strengthening B.C’s recovery
VICTORIA – The Province is launching a made-in-B.C. certification system to support higher-paying, more stable work for trades workers and to help build the foundation of a strong economic recovery.
The new skilled trades certification system will help deliver steady employment for people and address the demand for skilled workers in B.C. It will also create more opportunities for women, Indigenous peoples and those just starting their careers.
“Skilled tradespeople are building B.C., especially with the largest infrastructure investment in our province’s history already underway,” said Premier John Horgan. “This is a made-in-B.C. solution to ensure confidence that a highly skilled workforce is behind our recovery while providing good, family-supporting jobs that tradespeople can count on. By working together, we’re ensuring B.C. comes out of the pandemic stronger, with a recovery that reaches people across the province.”
Every other province in Canada requires tradespeople to be certified. B.C. removed that requirement in 2003. Without a recognized credential, it can be challenging for workers to transition between projects and industries, resulting in lost wages for workers and their families – especially for people who already face greater barriers to employment in the trades. Skilled trades certification will enhance the strong industry and safety training system, which includes partnerships with WorkSafeBC and Technical Safety BC.
Skilled trades certification will increase prestige for the trades, helping attract more people to trades careers. It will formally recognize the skills of current and future trades workers, helping them keep working as the economy and industry’s needs shift over time.
Apprentices will be part of a certified workforce that will build the infrastructure and provide the services that British Columbians rely on every day. Following public consultation, implementation will start with 10 initial trades from electrical, mechanical and automotive disciplines.
“Skilled trades certification recognizes the professionalism of tradespeople throughout B.C., and ensures equity-deserving groups and every person who wants a rewarding career in the trades can access the highest level of education and training,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. “Similar to a post-secondary degree, a certified trades worker has a certification that is recognized by employers – just like teachers, lab techs, nurses and other certified workers. By recognizing the worker’s skill, we will attract more people into careers in the trades in order to help address labour shortages across a variety of trades.”
Based on recommendations from a 16-member stakeholder advisory working group representing industry associations, labour, post-secondary institutions, Indigenous skills trainers and the Industry Training Authority, the 10 initial trades designated for skilled trades certification are:
- mechanical: gasfitter Class A and B, steamfitter/pipefitter, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic and sheet metal worker;
- electrical: powerline technician, industrial electrician and electrician (construction); and
- automotive: heavy-duty equipment technician, automotive service technician and autobody and collision technician.
Once implemented, individuals in these 10 trades will be required to either be a certified journeyperson or a registered apprentice to work. To ensure high standards of supervision, safety and quality training for apprentices, government will also be working with industry to introduce journeyperson to apprentice ratios for each of these 10 trades, as in every other province. Key supports will be identified to support people during the transition to full certification.
A public engagement process will seek input on key aspects of implementing skilled trades certification, including:
- helping support current workers to become certified while standardizing skills at a high level;
- identifying and creating implementation supports for employers during economic recovery; and
- creating multiple pathways to completion for all workers, so no one is left behind.
The engagement will start immediately and includes an online survey, roundtables, community dialogues and focused discussions with the Industry Training Authority, the parliamentary secretary for skills training and staff from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training.
“Trades workers keep our lights on, the heating running and our vehicles safe, and deliver the services British Columbians count on,” said Andrew Mercier, Parliamentary Secretary for Skills Training. “That’s why we want to hear from current tradespeople, those interested in starting their careers and employers on how we can implement a new skilled trades certification system that meets the needs of people and economy today, with a support system that makes sense for both workers and employers. The conversation is ongoing, and we want to hear from you.”
Government will consult with apprentices, trades workers, small to large employers and Indigenous peoples, as well as asking for insight from women, new Canadians and other groups critical to growing the trades workforce about their experiences. These conversations will ensure representation from rural and urban communities.
- In 2003, the B.C. government eliminated compulsory trades credentialing system. This removed 11 compulsory trades and prescribed journeyperson-to-apprentice ratios.
- Skilled trades certification will be implemented in phases after the public engagement process is complete. Once a trade has been designated for certification, individuals will have at least one year to either register as apprentices or challenge an exam to certify as a journeyperson, allowing uncertified workers to continue working while accessing any additional supports they may need to.
- Approximately 73,000 job openings are expected in the trades in B.C. through to 2029. With 77% of these openings replacing retiring trades workers, skilled trades certification will help ensure the success of the individuals who will fill these roles, while continuing to build prestige around trades for those already working in them.
For skilled trades certification information, business cases and a public survey, visit: engage.gov.bc.ca/skilledtrades
For a techincal briefing on B.C.’s skilled trades certification, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/STC_Technical_Briefing_June11.pdf
Two backgrounders follow.
Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training
What people are saying about skilled trades certification
Harry Bains, Minister of Labour –
“Our province relies on skilled workers. By bringing back skilled trades certification, we can make sure that these workers receive the training they need to succeed and deliver top-quality work. Certification will lead to an improved pool of skilled workers, which attracts investment to the province and will make career opportunities in the skilled trades more accessible and fairer for everyone.”
Shelley Gray, CEO, Industry Training Authority –
“The Industry Training Authority welcomes the Province’s announcement and looks forward to facilitating the implementation of skilled trades certification in B.C. We eagerly anticipate the coming engagements with apprentices, trades workers, small to large employers, unions, Indigenous partners and equity-seeking groups to ensure our programs are inclusive and supportive.”
Adrian Scovell, president and CEO, Automotive Retailers Association –
“There are many highly skilled automotive tradespeople in B.C., and recognition of their work through certification helps build respect for everyone working in the industry. Whether it is a chance for students training for a first job, those retraining for a new opportunity or those looking to enhance their current careers, skilled trades certification is part of reigniting the engine of a vibrant B.C. economy.”
Al Phillips, president, BC Building Trades –
“The implementation and enforcement of skilled trades certification affirms a long-standing principle held by the members of the BC Building Trades. Our construction projects require a highly skilled workforce – workers who have a skilled trade certification (Red Seal) or workers who are registered apprentices in a recognized apprenticeship program. Skilled trades certification and its enforcement will help build a skilled local workforce, ensuring economic prosperity for B.C.”
Laird Cronk, president, BC Federation of Labour –
“Skilled trades certification will ensure a workforce with cutting-edge technical training and on-the-job mentorship experience – the skills needed to adapt to and thrive in the new economy for decades to come. A highly skilled workforce will set B.C. business up for a successful economic recovery. It will also ensure workers have more than a job – they’ll have family-supporting, community-building careers.”
Chloe Jess, automotive technician student, Camosun College –
“Taking apart something that is broken and putting it back together repaired gives me such a sense of accomplishment. I started my journey into the automotive industry at the age of 20 and I am well on my way to obtaining my Red Seal. I hope to become a mechanic who is considerate, kind and knowledgeable in my field. Obtaining my Red Seal is a big part of that, and I am grateful for the mentors and co-workers supporting my on-the-job experience at a shop in Victoria.”
Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training
Increased affordability, accessibility for apprenticeships
Apprentice supports reduce financial barriers to trades certification by covering certain training costs, such as tuition ($1,000 on average per level), travel, living away from home, child care costs and loss of wages.
Apprenticeships are usually four years in length and include a combination of in-class technical training and on-the-job training with an employer.
In addition to the financial supports outlined below, both apprentices and employers benefit from the services offered by the Industry Training Authority and WorkBC (e.g., apprenticeship advisors, industry relations and employment supports).
Financial supports for apprentices
- A government mandated cap on tuition limits annual tuition fee increases to no more than 2%.
- The BC Access Grant provides eligible pre-apprenticeship (foundation) students with a grant of up to $4,000.
- The Youth Work in Trades Scholarship ($1,000) is available to secondary school students upon graduation and completion of the Youth Work in Trades program.
- The Training Tax Credit for Apprentices provides up to $2,000 in tax credits within the first two years of a non-Red Seal apprenticeship, with an additional $1,000 for Indigenous apprentices or people with disabilities.
- The Apprentice Tax Credit for Completion provides apprentices with up to $4,500 in tax credits in the final two years of their apprenticeship, with an additional $2,250 available to Indigenous apprentices or people with disabilities (all trades).
- WorkBC Apprentice Services assists eligible apprentices with employment services, living supports and other financial supports (e.g., travel, dependent care and disability-related costs) while attending the in-classroom technical training component of their apprenticeship.
- The Apprenticeship Incentive Grant provides up to $2,000 in cash grants to Red Seal apprentices within the first two years of apprenticeship.
- The Apprenticeship Incentive Grant for Women provides up to $6,000 in cash grants to women in a Red Seal apprenticeship within the first two years of apprenticeship.
- The Apprenticeship Completion Grant offers apprentices who complete their training and achieve Red Seal certification with a $2,000 cash grant.
- The Exam Tax Credit provides apprentices with up to $120 in tax credits per year when taking an Industry Training Authority exam.
- The Tools Deduction provides a $500 in tax credits per year to help with purchasing new tools.
- Up to $4,000 in interest-free apprenticeship loans are available to apprentices during their in-class technical training (B.C./Canada student loans are only available for foundation/pre-apprenticeship training).
- Employment insurance (EI) is available to financially support apprentices during their in-classroom technical training, averaging $4,222 per year, per claimant.
Financial supports for employers
- Employers who hire and train apprentices in non-Red Seal trades are eligible for up to $8,000 in tax credits for the first two years of apprenticeship, with an additional $4,000 if employing Indigenous apprentices or people with disabilities.
- B.C. provides both Red Seal and non-Red Seal employers with up to $5,500 in tax credits during the final two years of the apprenticeship, with an additional $2,750 for Indigenous apprentices or people with disabilities.
- For Red Seal trades only, the federal government provides up to $4,000 in employer tax credit for the first two years of apprenticeship.
Language and education accessibility (ELL/ESL):
- Government is reducing barriers and providing learning pathways for all British Columbians by providing tuition-free adult basic education and English language learning programs.
Provincial Tuition Waiver Program:
- In 2017, government expanded the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program for former youth in care to all 25 public post-secondary institutions and the Native Education College. It further expanded the program in 2018 to include 10 union-based training providers.
Workforce Development Agreement programs:
- Canada-BC Workforce Development Agreement (WDA) programs enable people throughout the province to get the skills they need and help communities and employers connect with the training and workers they need.
- Programs include a focus on meeting the needs of vulnerable and under-represented groups, regardless of EI eligibility, by providing access to the support and training needed to get good-paying jobs.
- These programs include pre-apprenticeship programs for women, Indigenous peoples and other equity-seeking groups, delivered through the Industry Training Authority, so they can access trades training and apprenticeship.
Addressing sexism/racism in the workplace:
- The vision for those who work in trades is to build an environment where employees are treated fairly and respectfully by coworkers and colleagues on all worksites.
- An inclusive and respectful worksite culture is everyone’s responsibility.
- Worksite culture contributes to the retention and growth of a diverse, skilled workforce for the province.
- Government is committed to making B.C. a safer and more inclusive place for everyone, including:
- committing to introduce a new anti-racism act and legislation on race-based data collection;
- committing to create a multilingual racist-incident hotline for British Columbians to report racist incidents and receive support and referrals;
- providing $2 million to support Japanese Canadian seniors as a first step to honour the traumatic internment of almost 22,000 Japanese Canadians during the Second World War; and
- working in partnership with the Black community to recognize the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent.
Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training
Connect with the Province of B.C. at: news.gov.bc.ca/ca