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Study: Completing apprenticeship training in Canada

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Released: 2020-12-09

Less than one-fifth of people who embark upon an apprenticeship program in Canada complete their training within the designated time period. Apprentices in higher-paying apprenticeship positions are more likely to complete their program within a given period of time than those in lower-paying positions, according to a new study.

Skilled trades are an important driver of the Canadian economy and apprenticeship training is the key pathway to become a skilled tradesperson. However, with an aging workforce, there are growing concerns about the potential lack of skilled tradespersons in the coming years, since these workers are aging at a faster pace than the rest of the workforce.

Over the last two decades, the number of new registrations in apprenticeship programs have outpaced certificates granted, suggesting that many apprentices did not complete their program. This has sparked the need to study certification rates of apprentices to better understand the factors associated with successful program completion and certification in the trades. This knowledge is crucial for ensuring the renewal of the skilled labour force in Canada.

Furthermore, as apprenticeship is primarily work-based training, apprentices are particularly vulnerable to economic shocks. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, many apprentices have been temporarily laid off due to the economic difficulties encountered by their employers and public health related shut downs. In addition, those who still have the opportunity to continue their training might have difficulty completing it because of reduced hours and/or the cancellation of the classroom portion of their training.

A new study, "Factors associated with the completion of apprenticeship training in Canada," uses data from the Education and Labour Market Longitudinal Platform to examine which factors are associated with the certification rates of registered apprentices in Canada, including the role played by employment conditions during their on-the-job training. While the data used in the current study were collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the results remain important as they highlight the many challenges faced by apprentices during their training.

A majority of apprentices take longer than their program duration to receive a certificate

Program duration varies across programs and jurisdictions from one to five years. Four-year (38%), three-year (33%) and one-year (18%) programs were the most common programs among apprentices who have registered in an apprenticeship training since 2008. Two-year (8%) and five-year (3%) programs were comparatively rare.

A majority of apprentices take longer than the program duration to receive their certificate. By the end of the expected duration of the program, less than one-fifth (16%) had received a certificate, while almost two-thirds (64%) were still continuing their program and one-fifth (20%) had left their training.

The number of apprentices who obtain their certificate continues to increase beyond the expected length of the program. For example, the proportion of apprentices who received their certificate was 32% when adding those who took up to one and a half times the expected length of the program to complete their training, and 36% when adding those who completed their training between one and a half and two times the length of their program.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Proportion of apprentices who received a certificate, were continuing their program or discontinued their program, within the expected program duration and one and a half times and twice the program duration, 2008 to 2016
Proportion of apprentices who received a certificate, were continuing their program or discontinued their program, within the expected program duration and one and a half times and twice the program duration, 2008 to 2016

Apprentices who received credits for training or previous work experience were more likely to receive their certificate

When registering for an apprenticeship program, some apprentices receive credits for training completed prior to registration or for previous work-related experience in the trade. Among apprentices who have registered in an apprenticeship training since 2008, close to 4 in 10 (38%) received credits prior to registering in their program.

Apprentices who were credited for previous work experience or training at the time of registration (44%) were more likely to complete their program than those who did not (31%).

Working conditions and wages play an important role in the success of an apprentice

Employers play an important role in supporting apprentices throughout their programs. For example, apprentices who had higher-paying apprenticeship positions were more likely to complete their program than those in lower-paying positions. More specifically, apprentices who earned from $45,000 to $59,999 in the registration year (46%) were 11 percentage points more likely to receive their certificate than those who earned from $15,000 to $29,999 (35%).

The type of work experience acquired during training also makes a difference. Apprentices who were working in a field closely related to their trade (38%) were more likely to earn their certificate than those who were not (32%).

Furthermore, apprentices who received their certificate earned the highest wages throughout their training progression. Their income also rose at a faster pace than long-term continuers (those who were still registered to their program at one and a half times their program duration) and apprentices who left their program. For example, at the end of the normal program duration, the median annual income of apprentices who received their certificate was $51,920, compared with $33,350 for long-term continuers and $32,710 for those who left their program.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Median employment income of certified journeypersons, long-term continuers and discontinuers, one year before registration, at registration and at the end of the expected program duration, 2007 to 2016
Median employment income of certified journeypersons, long-term continuers and discontinuers, one year before registration, at registration and at the end of the expected program duration, 2007 to 2016

  Note to readers

The Education and Labour Market Longitudinal Platform at Statistics Canada was developed to allow for the integration of anonymized information from the Registered Apprenticeship Information System (RAIS), as well as the Postsecondary Student Information System (PSIS), with anonymized information from other administrative datasets.

The RAIS provides information on individuals who registered for training and those who obtain certification within a trade where apprenticeship training is being offered. For this study, tax data from the T1 Family File and immigration information from the Longitudinal Immigration Database combined with the RAIS 2008 – 2016 were used.

Data are restricted to apprentices who have registered in an apprenticeship program since 2008 and whose one and a half times the normal program duration has passed by 2016. As a result, this study includes 244,820 apprentices spread out across 165 programs.

Outcomes are measured after one and a half times the program duration, as many certified journeypersons take longer than the program duration to obtain their certificate.

(Certified) journeypersons are defined as apprentices who completed and received their certificates within one and a half times their program duration.

Long-term continuers are apprentices who were still registered in their program after one and a half times the length of their program had elapsed.

Discontinuers are apprentices who left their program, without receiving a certificate, within one and a half times the program duration.

Common (relevant) sector related to the trade is defined as the three most common industrial sectors in which certified journeypersons of the trade work. Using the North American Industry Classification System information from the tax data, the number of certified journeypersons are counted for each three-digit level sector by trade and jurisdiction. If an apprentice worked in one of the three most common sectors, the individual is classified as working in the common sector to their trade. Due to the nature of the tax data some apprentices may work in one of the sectors while performing jobs unrelated to their trade.

Products

The article "Factors associated with the completion of apprenticeship training in Canada" is now available in Insights on Canadian Society (Catalogue number75-006-X).

The infographic "Completing apprenticeship training in Canada," is now available in the series Statistics Canada - Infographics (Catalogue number11-627-M).

The infographic "Apprenticeship in Canada, 2019" is now available in the series Statistics Canada - Infographics (Catalogue number11-627-M).

The product "Canadian Apprenticeship Registrations and Certifications: Interactive Tool" is now available in Statistics Canada - Data Visualization Products (Catalogue number71-607-X).

A new version of the technical reference guide "Pathway indicators for registered apprentices in Canada, 2008 to 2018" is now available via the Technical Reference Guides for the Education and Labour Market Longitudinal Platform (Catalogue number37200001).

New data on certification, continuation, and discontinuation rates of registered apprentices, 2008 to 2018, are now available (37-10-0193-01). This table replaces 37-10-0001-01 as data are now available for a larger selection of trades.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca).

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