Dave Waddell, Windsor Star
October 8, 2019

Patty Hajdu, the federal minister of employment, workforce and labour Patty Hajdu until Parliament was dissolved, used a Windsor campaign visit Tuesday to announce a re-elected Liberal government would create a Canadian Apprenticeship Service aimed at easing the shortage in skilled trades.

The centrepiece of the plan is providing employers up to $10,000 per apprentice over four years for firms that create job placements.

“That’s a big incentive,” said Hajdu in making the announcement at the Cavalier Tool plant.

“It’s a way for that employer to take a calculated risk, make sure they have a Red Seal professional onsite.”

Hajdu said no matter where she goes she hears employers worrying about the lack of employees and a mismatch of skills.

The MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North said recruiting skilled immigrants is a partial solution, but more needs to be done to unblock the pipeline for domestic talent.

“Part of the challenge with the skilled trades is, people say, ‘I went to college, got my pre-certificate in welding but now I can’t find anyone to hire me as apprentice so I’m never going to get that Red Seal certification.’” said Hajdu, who met with the party’s local candidates and spent part of the day knocking on doors in Windsor West with Sandra Pupatello.

“It’s a waste of time for that student, a waste of time for the industry that needs that talent,” she said. “Small businesses often don’t have the capacity financially to bring on those apprentices.”

Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, welcomed the plan.

“This helps to plug an ever-widening gap as we work on a larger strategy to reverse the trend,” Volpe said.

Laval Tool president Jonathon Azzopardi, who also heads the Canadian Association of Mold Makers, also expressed enthusiasm at the potential of another tool to combat a shortage that is threatening to evolve from an inconvenience to a crisis in the coming years.

“We’re looking at losing 25 to 30 per cent of our skilled trades (in the mold-making industry) in the next eight to 10 years or less,” Azzopardi said.

Azzopardi said his firm hired 10 apprentices five years ago to address the looming shortage. Currently, Laval has three apprentices working on their certification.

“An apprentice costs us $90,000 per year between supervision and administrative costs and they (generate revenue) of $50,000, so there’s a significant loss there,” Azzopardi said.

“Anything we can do to reduce that $40,000 loss per apprentice would be very helpful. For a small business, that’s a lot of money.”

Azzopardi added a lot of students go through college and don’t complete that final year to get their papers.

Though students have their schooling paid for, they don’t get paid to go to school like they used to.

“What’s also happening now is, because of the (shortage) situation, they know to start they can earn as much as a guy who has got the schooling, so they don’t bother,” Azzopardi said. “They don’t need their papers like an electrician does to do the job of CNC or mold maker.

“We need a way to get them to stick out that third year and this $10,000 might potentially do that.”

Hajdu said the service would work in partnership with provinces, territories, employers and unions to match apprentices to job placements.

The federal government will directly hire up to 250 apprentices each year, require government suppliers participate in the Canadian Apprenticeship Service and ensure federal construction contracts meet targets of greater inclusion of women in the trades.

“Often, for small businesses it’s cost, but also a fear of poaching,” Hajdu said.

“We know we actually have to build capacity in the pipeline. Part of that is taking away that risk.”

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