Apprenticeship program has a substantial impact on employment outcomes
In an interview with John Bleasby during Electrical Week, Hanna Taylor the owner of award winning company Hotwire Electric look perturbed regarding the ongoing issues in electrical trade. Problems with the program structure and small apprenticeship system.
In Canada, the apprenticeship system has been primarily criticized not for failing to adapt to the training demands of new labour markets, but for failing to maintain an adequate supply of training for traditional ones
Deficiency of System
School-to-work transition and skills deficit appear to be the main lack in the system. Although school-to-work transition approach is concerned with workers welfare and is primarily concerned with the distribution of training to youth and disadvantaged groups but due to long term program and less awareness the completion rate is very low. “It takes 9,000 hours for a Canadian apprentice to be able to write the electrical licensing exam,” Taylor explained.
“The politicians say, ‘Get more kids into trades.’
So kids are coming straight out of high school; they come here, and we train them at the first level.” Apprenticeship system has three stages and it take almost 8 to 10 weeks to complete each stage and there is pressure on students to work in industry and attend classes.
“Sometimes they’ll get all three blocks back to back to back. Or they might get one block after three years of employment and won’t get the last block of school until after five or six years. It’s all messed up. There’s no rhyme or reason; they’re just a number. There’s no timeline.” Taylor said.
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Taylor also talked about the people who do not have Canadian experience or license in the electrical field but pursue their career in it by showing their native country’s experience or degree. She think it is the problem with system that exemptions are allowed to these people.
“If someone has a letter from some other country saying they were an engineer or a technician of some sort, they can walk into Canada with their employment resume, claim they’ve been in the field for say, ten years, and ask to take a challenge exam despite not having touched a single tool in Canada.”
Loop holes in Examination System
Conduction of an open book exam provide ticket to be an electrician and the person familiar with sites and material can easily cheat the code and answer the questions. According to Taylor
“The ministry will overlook the 9,000 hours required for Canadians, and let that person write an open book, multiple choice exam. That means they’ll read the code book on their own and maybe have a translator to sit in the exam room with them. If they get over 70 per cent, they’re in; they’ve got their ticket! Maybe they’re book-smart, maybe he opened the book and got lucky.”
And she believes this ticketed graduates are without experience and are ready to work at lower wages. But to be an electrician practical knowledge is required and that can be gained by 9000 hours of training.
Value of Training
The lack of training and incentives for trainees in delivering training, experience has been sited as another limitation in providing quality training. Taylor feels that the training provided is inadequate or insufficient to make a competent skilled worker after 9000 hours of apprenticeship. She strongly emphasis on the need of regulatory check on the quality of experience provided and supervisory opinion on the trainee progress and work.
“The system is creating robots. It’s assumed that the apprentice has been exposed to 9,000 of different scenarios. But the truth is, some of the high-rise guys will take a level one apprentice and have him run conduit and ‘slab work’ as it’s called for five years, never expose him to services and upgrades, different panels, plugs, roughing-in residential. After 9,000 hours of creating a robot, that’s he all knows is how to do. But he can go and write his exam for his ticket. That’s also wrong!”
Assessment in Hotwire Electric
The responsibility of policy makers had now fallen into the hands of employers like Taylor. Taylor has changed her way of hiring for Hotwire Electric. The mode of asking for experience and resumes or conducting interviews is totally reformed to on sight trial where they are assessed on their practical work and knowledge. She assesses them for their capabilities and their keen insight for problem solving. Taylor overlooks for best licensed electrician.
The interview outlines a number of issues apprenticeship facing and the serious need to look over them and find the cause how they have evolved, otherwise it is expected to continue to evolve over time.