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Apprenticeships good for business and workers

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WMC by Richard Lipman
Richard Lipman is president of the Wood Manufacturing Council. For more info email

One of the most effective cross-sector organizations the Wood Manufacturing Council works with is the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF).
Several years ago, CAF lead an important national campaign to promote the skilled trades. WMC participated in that campaign. CAF is a non-profit organization that connects Canada’s apprenticeship community with partners working together to support vibrant and innovative apprenticeship systems and policies with a view to develop a highly-skilled, inclusive and mobile skilled trades workforce. A wide variety of organizations, from employers, educational institutions, jurisdictions, equity groups and unions participate in and support their organization as members. They are a national voice for the apprenticeship community and they influence pan-Canadian apprenticeship strategies through research, discussions and collaboration.  
CAF acts as a national forum for apprenticeship dialogue, connecting stakeholders to share best practice, identify barriers, and work collectively on solutions. They promote apprenticeship to youth, parents and employers, as a valuable, post-secondary pathway leading to rewarding careers in high-demand professions. CAF has provided research insights, facilitated dialogue, profiled promising initiatives and promoted apprenticeship. CAF has also conducted a wide variety of research knowing that their stakeholders can benefit from accurate, unbiased insights into apprenticeship challenges in order to be able to address them. CAF has contributed greatly to find effective local, regional and national solutions.
CAF has heard from nearly 1,000 Canadian employers through surveys and conversations and they have said that hiring apprentices creates a stronger workforce, builds better businesses, helps attract and retain top talent and offers a high return on training investment.
One noted obstacle for companies looking for apprentices is the difficulty in finding all the necessary information.
CAF’s website, helps by providing all the necessary information, including an Employer Toolkit, research and reports, videos and fact sheets that cover the full gambit of information about apprenticeship. Provinces and territories often offer tax credits or wage subsidies or training support for businesses that hire eligible apprentices. You can get more information by consulting the Employer Supports Mechanisms report and by using the tools found on their website.
Also, employers can find out more about building a stronger business by reading CAF’s report Employers and Apprenticeship in Canada available on the Reports and Resources page at
There is good news for companies that want to know if their bottom line will be affected by putting their resources into apprenticeships. CAF’s discussions with those who hire apprentices indicate ‘real returns to their company bottom line.’ When broken down by type of trade, employers in 19 out of 21 trades reported a positive return on training investment. The findings are that the benefits earned (and revenues generated) increase each year over the course of a four-year apprenticeship.
CAF notes that the ‘Total Return on a four-year apprenticeship’ for a cabinetmaker is $66,929. In addition to financial benefits, qualitative returns include: a better fit with the organization, greater overall productivity, better health and safety performance and better relations with customers.
Another often-raised concern has to do with employee retention. Of course some employees may on occasion leave to take on a different job. And while no employer wants to invest time and resources in training employees only to have them leave, CAS findings show this not to be an issue. In fact generally, apprentices looking for opportunities in the trades and a chance to develop a career, tend to be eager, motivated, flexible and loyal to the companies that invest in them and are committed to a specific career.
Hiring young apprentices shows that you’re committed to invest in your employees and their careers. Apprenticeships are also a good way to plan for the future. Companies may have a strong workforce today, but at some point, their most experienced workers will retire. By investing in apprentices, firms are investing in their future and ensuring knowledge transfer to their future employees. Through apprenticeships, they’ll find workers who are motivated, skilled and eager to learn.
There will be significant competition for top talent. As an employer, you know that your most important asset is your talent and you might wonder where you will continue to find the best employees for your business. CAF says those who invest in apprenticeship have no trouble finding top talent.
If you are not sure where to find well-prepared apprentices, start by looking in your community for training programs and agencies that assist workers to upgrade language specialized math computer and other essential skills. These programs and agencies can help you find the best talent for the needs of your company. Youth apprenticeship programs and pre-apprenticeship programs at your local colleges can also be a wealth of information and when you find the right apprentice, most of these programs and agencies will offer ongoing support in case you need more information or have concerns.
In surveying thousands of Canadian employers who hire apprentices, CAF has found that many successful employers are using apprenticeships to grow their businesses. They tell CAF that the apprentices they invest in who continue on to become qualified journeypersons have better health and safety performance, show overall greater productivity and make fewer mistakes.

With files from the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum.

Richard Lipman is President of the Wood Manufacturing Council.

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