Barriers to Attracting Apprentices and Completing their Apprenticeships

Joel Lopata, Chelsey Maclachlan, Catharine Dishke Hondzel, Debra Mountenay, Jill Halyk, Vicki Mayer, Tamara Kaattari

In 2011, the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum forecasted a need for 316,000 workers to replace the construction industry’s retiring workforce (CAF, 2011a). Meanwhile, worker shortages in the automotive sector are expected to reach between 43,700 and 77,150 by 2021. The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum’s 2011 survey data also showed that nearly half of employers report a shortage of qualified staff (CAF, 2011a). With worker shortages already widespread across skilled trades sectors, the attraction of apprentices and the completion of apprenticeships are issues concerning stakeholders involved in worker training, economic development, and workforce planning. Thus, attracting qualified individuals into apprenticeships and supporting them to completion is imperative. In the current study, we unearthed the barriers to attracting apprentices and to completing apprenticeships in the Elgin, Middlesex, Oxford, and Grand Erie regions of south central Ontario. Further, we used these findings to generate actions to improve apprentice participation and completion for inclusion in regional implementation plans. To accomplish this we used Trochim’s (1989) concept mapping research method and modified focus groups and surveys.

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The Apprentice Retention Program: Evaluation and Implications for Ontario

Ron Hansen and Catharine Dishke Hondzel

Project description

The ARP was developed in a partnership with Western University, Fanshawe College, the local Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities’ (MTCU) Employment Ontario office, the Apprenticeship Network and the Elgin Middlesex Oxford Workplace Planning and Development Board. The program consisted of nine hands-on and two online workshops focusing on building life skills and resilience. Session topics included school and workplace learning, communication and employer expectations.

The study, The Apprentice Retention Program: Evaluation and Implications for Ontario, was conducted in the fall of 2012. A total of 26 registered apprentices taking their in-class training at Fanshawe College participated in the study – 11 of them in ARP and 15 of them only in interviews. Data were collected from the ARP participants before, during and after the activities, and included program evaluation exit cards. Interviews and focus groups were conducted with apprentices, former apprentices and employers in the skilled trades to identify what they thought to be the major issues facing apprentices.


Most ARP participants interviewed said the program provided valuable information that they could use in their work and personal lives. Sessions on employer expectations, finances and budgeting were among the most well received topics. Discussion-based sessions were preferred over lecture-style deliveries.

Those apprentices who were interviewed and who participated in focus groups strongly believed that they would benefit from greater face-to-face support from MTCU employment and training consultants. Employers and apprentices would have liked to know more about support services available to apprentices.

Many apprentices said they would have liked to know more about the scope of job opportunities available post- apprenticeship. Almost all study participants indicated that they had experienced some difficulty during the apprenticeship training process and that they were able to complete the training because they were in some way supported or had a unique opportunity to overcome specific barriers.

The study identified several themes that surfaced repeatedly in interviews and focus groups including financial support, access to support from MTCU, difficulty with school curriculum and challenges in their personal lives. None of these factors was mutually exclusive and participants typically addressed more than one barrier in conversation, “suggesting that any intervention designed to improve apprentice retention needs to be multi-faceted and work on many levels, taking into account the dynamic nature of the apprenticeship training process as well as the lives of the apprentices enrolled,” say the study authors.

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