National Apprenticeship Survey: Canada Overview Report 2015
Section 4 Financial supports for apprentices

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As section 3 demonstrates, completion or discontinuation of an apprenticeship is influenced by a variety of factors. Financial constraints and job instability are key challenges for many apprentices, particularly those who have experienced difficulties or had discontinued their apprenticeship programs. Apprentices are workers who are concurrently earning a wage and training to become skilled tradespeople. However, since apprenticeship is industry-driven, apprentices may not have access to enough work to support themselves financially throughout the duration of a program. A number of supports are available to apprentices, including grants, loans, tax credits, and the Employment Insurance (EI) program. This section examines how apprentices fund their apprenticeship training, including awareness and use of select supports.

Key findings

Apprenticeship grants and tax credits

Two federal government grants are available to apprentices in Red Seal trades: the Apprenticeship Incentive Grant (AIG) and the Apprenticeship Completion Grant (ACG).Note 1 These grants aim to increase access to apprenticeships in Red Seal trades and to encourage early progression, building momentum toward completion of apprenticeship training. NAS 2015 included a set of questions to assess awareness and uptake of these grants. Results regarding apprenticeship grants are presented in Table A.4.1, Appendix A.

About 60% of apprentices in the 2015 NAS were aware of the federal apprenticeship grants during their programs; with completers more likely than discontinuers to know about them (please refer to Table A.4.1, Appendix A, for detailed findings). Most apprentices who were aware of the grants applied for them (AIG 75.5% and ACG 70.4%), and the majority of grants—upwards of 95%—were approved. The most commonly stated reasons for not applying for the grants were that they were not eligible (AIG 24.7% and ACG 32.7%) or that they had stopped an apprenticeship before they could apply (AIG 19.2% and ACG 25.5%). About 90% of completers applied for the AIG and ACG. Three-quarters (75.6%) of completers were approved for the AIG in both years, and nearly all who applied (97.3%) received an ACG. While discontinuers were less likely to have applied for an AIG (42.5%), among those who did, most (87.7%) received this grant for at least one year or level.

Apprentices were asked to comment on the utility of the funds provided through the grants. Most (81.5%) felt that the money from the grants helped to cover the cost of apprenticeship. Similarly, almost three-quarters (72.6%) believed that the money from the grants encouraged them to complete their apprenticeship programs.

Federal—and, in some cases, provincial / territorial—income tax credits are available to apprentices for eligible expenses, such as the payment of tuition or the purchase of required tools. More than one-third of apprentices (37.2%) reported ever claiming a tax credit on an income tax return, and completers (45.2%) were more likely to have done so than discontinuers (26.4%). Most of those who had not claimed a tax credit reported that this was because they were not aware of them (56.2%) or were not eligible (15.2%).

Use of the Employment Insurance (EI) program

Apprentices may be eligible for benefits from the Employment Insurance (EI) programNote 2 while they search for employment or take time away from work to attend full-time training. Findings pertaining to use of the EI program are presented in Table A.4.2 (Appendix A).

During periods of required technical training, which are typically six to eight weeks in duration, apprentices may not have any employment income. Of those apprentices who had at least one period of technical training or course work, 59.1% had applied for EI benefits, and nearly all (97.7%) received them at least once (Table A.4.2, Appendix A). More completers (66.0%) than discontinuers (44.2%) requested EI during technical training; however, rates of approval were similar for both groups. About 40% of apprentices reported their first EI payments arrived in the expected amount of time; however, half (52.3%) felt the payments were slower or much slower than expected.

Trade schools and instructors (49.0%) were the primary source of information about EI benefits for apprentices; this was followed by Service Canada representatives (13.2%) and apprenticeship employers (12.7%). Completers (52.6%) were more likely than discontinuers (37.3%) to report that a trade school had given them information about EI.

Most of those who did not apply for EI during technical training reported they had a paid job (44.7%) or were otherwise not eligible (13.3%). While some were not aware they could apply for EI benefits (12.7%), others (16.8%) indicated that they did not need more money. More discontinuers reported that they were not eligible for EI or were unaware that they could apply for EI, while completers were more likely to forgo EI because they had a paid job or were getting paid by an employer.

Among apprentices whose applications were denied or who were not eligible for EI, the most commonly cited reasons were related to EI program requirements: they did not work a sufficient number of hours (26.9%); they had a job (18.4%); or they were not enrolled in full-time, required course work (14.1%).

More than one-quarter of apprentices (27.7%) reported receiving regular EI benefits outside of periods during their programs when they were in technical training, presumably to assist with these periods of unemployment.

Other sources of financial support

The 2015 NAS asked apprentices about other sources of financial support to help pay for training expenses (please refer to Table A.4.3, Appendix A, for detailed results). While many apprentices tapped into available grants, tax credits, and EI benefits, apprenticeship training is funded largely through the on-the-job portion of the apprenticeship. In fact, apprenticeship employers were the primary source of income for 83.9% of apprentices. More completers (87.2%) than discontinuers (79.4%) reported having income from their apprenticeship employers, and discontinuers were more likely to have income from another employer (i.e., a second job) or no income at all.

Apprentices were asked about other sources that may have assisted with training-related expenses, such as equipment, tools, meals and transportation. About two-thirds (67.4%) did not have any additional financial support. Among those who did, help with expenses came from apprenticeship employers (18.4%) and family or friends (12.0%). A few apprentices (6.6%) had their employers top up their EI benefits while they were on technical training, and a few (5.6%) also received grants or training allowances from a source other than the federal government.

Completers were more likely than discontinuers to receive additional support and EI top-ups from their apprenticeship employers as well as other grants or training allowances. During technical training, completers (59.1%) were also more likely than discontinuers (41.3%) to receive support from their apprenticeship employers if they did not receive EI. Discontinuers, on the other hand, were more likely (23.3%) than completers (15.9%) to rely on income from another employer or to have no other income (34.1% versus 21.2%) during this time.

Loans are another way people typically pay for training and education. About one in five (22.4%) apprentices reported having borrowed money that had to be repaid. Of those who received a loan, 43.8% took out a bank loan (or loan from another financial institution) or used a credit card or line of credit; 35.9% were loaned money by family or friends; and 29.3% had government student loans.

Given the nature of apprenticeship training, apprentices may not have been eligible for standard student loans at the time of their programs. However, in 2014, the Canada Apprentice Loan (CAL)Note 3 program was introduced. Although the CAL program was not available to this cohort of apprentices, nearly one-third (29.3%) of those who had taken some technical training were aware of this program, and about half (49.5%) said that they would have applied for a loan under the CAL program if it had been available to them when they were apprentices.


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