Registered apprenticeship training programs, 2021
The apprenticeship system in Canada was greatly impacted by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health measures that were introduced to control the spread of the virus. While many restrictions persisted throughout 2021, tight labour market conditions in the skilled trades helped the apprenticeship system regain losses experienced in the depths of the pandemic.
In 2021, new registrations in apprenticeship programs (+31.1%) and certifications in the trades (+33.7%) saw significant increases from the year before. However, these figures remained below pre-pandemic levels, and as indicated in the 2021 Census of Population, this comes amid falling numbers of certified journeypersons in the working-age population in key trades.
Tight labour market conditions coincide with growing numbers of new registrations in apprenticeship programs and certifications in the trades
New registrations and certifications in the trades are inextricably linked to the health of local labour markets, since apprentices seek to maintain suitable employment to fulfill their on-the-job hours and technical training.
In 2021, job vacancies in the trades, transport, and equipment operators and related occupations hit an all-time high, nearly doubling since 2019. At the same time, employment in the trades almost reached pre-pandemic levels, while unemployment rates fell below those observed in 2019.
New registrations in apprenticeship programs and certifications in the trades saw significant increases as businesses and tradespeople faced tight labour market conditions. While all trades saw some growth in new registrations in 2021, carpenters (+46.3%); heavy duty equipment mechanics (+45.9%); refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics (+42.9%); millwrights (+42.0%); plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters (+39.0%); and electricians (+37.0%) posted the largest year-over-year increases. Certifications in these trades also showed similar trends.
Percentage change in number of new registrations and certifications from 2020 to 2021, by trade group, Canada
The story was somewhat different for public-facing, service-related trades. Although job vacancies for some occupations, such as hairstylists and cooks, were elevated in 2021, employment rates for these occupations were well below pre-pandemic levels, and unemployment remained elevated, since many of these occupations continued to be impacted by public health guidelines and business closures. This is reflected in new registrations and certifications, where hairstylists and estheticians (+9.9%) and food service (+9.1%) were among the trade groups with the lowest year-over-year recovery in new registrations. Furthermore, food service was one of two trade groups that experienced a decline in certifications (-13.6%) in 2021. New registrations for early childhood educators and assistants (-40.5%), food services (-33.6%), and hairstylists and estheticians (-32.6%) remained well below 2019 levels.
Quebec records its highest numbers of new registrations in apprenticeship programs and certifications in the trades
In 2021, growing numbers of new registrations and certifications in the trades were recorded in every province, with many reaching their pre-pandemic levels.
Quebec reported its highest number of new registrations on record (24,169). This represents a significant year-over-year increase (+5,169, or +27.2%) for the province with the most extensive apprenticeship system in Canada. These increases were primarily driven by year-over-year growth in the construction industry, high demand for housing, strong investment growth in residential construction, and employment growth in the trades. Construction-related trades, such as carpenters (+51.3%), electricians (+42.6%), and plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters (+28.7%) accounted for more than half of the increases in new registrations in this province.
Year-over-year change in the number of new registrations and certifications, by province, 2021
Following Quebec, Ontario (+4,317, or +32.7%), Alberta (+2,811, or +36.6%), and British Columbia (+2,148, or +20.7%) had the highest increases in new registrations. All four provinces also reported similar increases in certifications, with Quebec posting the largest increase—up 5,631 (+41.0%) compared with 2020.
Growth in the construction industry in Ontario (+6.6%) and British Columbia (+3.6%) helped these provinces, at least partly, to post increases in the number of certifications in the trades. Certifications in Ontario (+23.3%) were mostly accounted for by increases in electricians (+34.4%) and automotive services (+23.0%). In contrast, increases in certifications in British Columbia were largest among plumbers, pipefitters, and steam fitters (+23.4%) and welders (+26.5%).
Growing numbers of women are entering into trades where they have been historically underrepresented
There were 8,688 new registrations and 4,821 certifications by female apprentices in 2021. This represents some recovery from the significant drops in 2020 but remains well below 2019 levels for new registrations in apprenticeship programs (-17.1%) and certifications in the trades (-24.4%).
This is because of the disproportionate representation of female apprentices in service-based, public-facing trades, such as early childhood educators and assistants, hairstylists and estheticians, and community and social service workers, all of which were heavily impacted by the pandemic and showed slow recovery in 2021.
While hairstylists and estheticians, and food service remained the most popular trade groups for female apprentices, new registrations in both trade groups declined by about one-third. Similarly, certifications also experienced significant drops compared with pre-pandemic numbers in 2019, by nearly half (-50.6%) for food service and by 41.6% for hairstylists and estheticians.
Percentage change in new registrations and certifications by female apprentices, pre-pandemic (2019) compared with 2021, by trade group, Canada
Women in the trades did, however, make significant gains in apprenticeship programs where they have been historically underrepresented. More specifically, new registrations of female apprentices surpassed pre-pandemic levels in many construction-related trades, such as exterior finishing (+56.5%), carpenters (+29.8%), electricians (+27.0%), interior finishing (+25.8%), and refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics (+25.0%). While this shift was already underway before the pandemic, the events of recent years may have acted as a catalyst to bolstering these trades, which saw their highest numbers of new registrations for women since the beginning of the series in 1991. The transition of women from public-facing, service-based trades into other industries could lead to stronger outcomes for female apprentices because of the higher earnings in many of these occupations.
Note to readers
The provinces and territories, which provide the data for this release, make operational and administrative changes related to the training and certification of the trades within their jurisdictions. These changes may affect historical comparisons. The data should be interpreted within the context of these administrative and operational changes. For further information on federal, provincial and territorial changes, see the Registered Apprenticeship Information System Guide.
The requirements for granting a certificate vary by jurisdiction in Canada. In most instances, an apprentice is issued a certificate if they complete requirements such as supervised on-the-job training and technical training, and pass one or more examinations. Meanwhile, most trade qualifiers become certified once they pass an examination.
The provincial and territorial jurisdictions determine the trades for which apprenticeship training is made available. These are referred to as designated trades. The jurisdictions also determine which of the designated trades require certification to work unsupervised in the trade. The list of designated trades varies considerably between jurisdictions. Data from the Registered Apprenticeship Information System include only the trades that are designated in at least one province or territory.
Registered apprentices are people who are in a supervised work training program in a designated trade. The apprentice must be registered with the appropriate governing body (usually a ministry of education or labour, or a trade-specific industry-governing body) to complete the training. Some apprentices could be registered in more than one apprenticeship program simultaneously.
The reference period is from January 1 to December 31, 2021.
Total registrations: The total number of registrations carried forward from the previous year, new registrations and reinstatements.
- Already registered: The number of registrations carried forward from the previous year.
- New registrations: New entrants to any apprenticeship program within the 12-month reporting period.
- Reinstatements: Registrations by people who had left an apprenticeship program in a specific trade in a previous year and returned to the same apprenticeship program during the reporting period.
Red Seal and non-Red Seal programs
The Red Seal Program sets common standards to assess the skills of tradespeople across Canada in trades referred to as the "Red Seal" trades. Tradespeople who meet the Red Seal standards, through examination, receive a Red Seal endorsement on their provincial or territorial trade certificates.
Non-Red Seal trades, however, do not have interprovincial standards. Many non-Red Seal trades do not require an exam to work in the trade.
Trade qualifiers or trade challengers are people who have worked in a specific trade for an extended period of time, without having ever been an apprentice, and who have received certification from a jurisdiction. This is usually done via a skills assessment in the trade.
The product "Canadian Apprenticeship Registrations and Certifications: Interactive Tool" is now available as part of the series Statistics Canada - Data Visualization Products (71-607-X).
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; firstname.lastname@example.org) or Media Relations (email@example.com).
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