On-Site Magazine

Apprenticeship certification rates stable in construction trades

By Adam Freill   

Construction Labour

Covid pandemic pushed the completion rate of apprenticeships down by 3.4 per cent between 2020 and 2021.

Percentage point change in certification rates from 2020 to 2021, selected trades, Canada. (Source: Statistics Canada, Registered Apprenticeship Information System (3154), 2008 to 2021.)

Being designated as an essential sector exempt from various public health measures in many provinces and territories during the pandemic lent stability to apprenticeship certification rates for the construction trades, reports Statistics Canada.

In Pathways indicators for registered apprentices in Canada, 2021, which the agency released this week, the annual change in certification rates trended to flat or positive in the construction-related trades. For example, steamfitters/pipefitters were up 9.7 percentage points in 2021; heavy-duty equipment technicians rose 1.5 percentage points; roofers gained 0.4 percentage points; crane operators 0.2 percentage points; and carpenters were down by a slim 0.1 percentage points.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the lives of many Canadians, including apprentices. The closure of numerous worksites and educational institutions disrupted on-the-job hours and technical training, making it challenging to accumulate credits toward certification. As a result, many apprentices faced challenges completing their programs on time.

Before the pandemic, 21.8 per cent of apprentices completed their programs within the program duration. For those who finished their apprenticeships in 2021, this measure dropped to 18.4 per cent, underscoring the significant impact the pandemic has had on certifications in the trades.


Of the 25 selected Red Seal trades for which results are available, hairstylists and cooks took the greatest hits, falling 16.3 and 10.6 per cent, respectively. These declines in the percentage of apprentices who received their certificates within the program duration are attributed to the disproportionate impact of pandemic restrictions on specific industries.

Because of the higher concentrations of female apprentices in trades that were more affected by the pandemic (e.g., hairstylists and cooks), the overall certification rates for female apprentices declined more than those of male apprentices in 2021. However, for some trades, certification rates for female apprentices saw smaller declines or even an increase compared with those of their male counterparts. For example, certification rates of female construction electricians had a small increase (1.5 percentage points), whereas that of their male counterparts decreased by two per cent.

In many trades, fewer apprentices certified or discontinued their training by the end of their program duration in 2021 compared with previous cohorts, and more apprentices were continuing their training. Whether this increased number of continuing apprentices is made up of those finishing their training with certificates or just postponing their discontinuation remains an important question to explore as more data become available, says Statistics Canada.




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