The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is renewing its call for Ontario to overhaul its apprenticeship programs in light of new research showing record levels of concern over the shortage of qualified labour.
CFIB’s latest Help Wanted report showed that the national long-term vacancy rate rose to 4.4 per cent in 2007 from 3.6 per cent the previous year, meaning 309,000 jobs went unfilled. Ontario’s rate jumped to 3.5 per cent from 2.6 per cent. Long-term vacancies (four months or more) increased in every sector in Ontario, with the greatest need being seen in construction, hospitality and primary industries. The problem is greatest for smaller businesses.
“The shortage of labour is a complex issue, but one part of the solution is getting people trained to meet the needs of the marketplace,” CFIB’s Ontario Director, Satinder Chera, said. “Business owners and young people tell us the rigid journeyperson/apprentice ratios fixed by the government limit or prevent companies from taking on apprentices.”
Ontario’s regulations require employers in certain trades to employ a number of journeypersons before they can qualify to train apprentices. The ratio can be as high as seven journeypersons to one apprentice. CFIB’s research shows close to a third of Ontario small businesses find these ratios are a major obstacle to apprenticeship training, which makes it even harder to address shortage of labour challenges.
“Other provinces are moving ahead of Ontario in addressing the shortage of qualified labour,” Chera said. “It’s time for this province to step up to the plate and help young people get the training they need for the jobs that are going unfilled.”