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More Canadian employers using apprenticeships to fill shortages

By Adam Freill   


Companies navigating labour and skills shortage, and rising costs with 217 per cent increase in the number of apprentices.


Employers are getting creative as they look to offset the ongoing skills shortage. According to a recent Peninusla Group survey of small and midsize businesses across Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, some 46.5 per cent are investing in upskilling and training their existing staff and increasing apprenticeships by 36 per cent globally. Canadian employers are increasingly turning to apprentices, with the survey indicating a massive 217 per cent increase year-over-year.

More than 25 per cent of employers list recruitment as their biggest challenge staffing wise, with pay increase requests coming in second at 22 per cent. Topping the list of business concerns are rising costs, which were cited by 84.2 per cent of SMBs surveyed.

Growth is the main business goal for 44.7 per cent of SMBs; a significant drop from 58.7 per cent this time last year, reflecting the tough economic environment faced by businesses around the world. Australia and New Zealand appear hardest hit, with 22.4 per cent and 26.6 per cent respectively listing survival as their main goal for the year.

It’s more positive news for the U.K. and Ireland, however, with just 18.8 per cent in both countries listing survival as their top goal, compared to 38.4 per cent and 34.7 per cent respectively a year ago.


Rising costs are the top concern for 84.2 per cent of all businesses, while staffing continues to be a big issue. Labour shortages came in second highest at 45.6 per cent with retention in third place at 41.5 per cent.

The cost-of-living crisis and staffing shortages are having a significant impact. More than half of employers in the survey report offering financial remuneration to help retention. Canada ranked highest in the use of that tactic, with 64.9 per cent of employers increasing wages.

Those who are unable to give financial incentives are turning to reward and recognition to aid retention; this saw a huge 131 per cent increase year-over-year. While mental health support was highly valued in all countries last year, this year it’s only in the U.K. where mental health is the second highest retention aid, with 48.7 per cent of employers continuing to offer it – an increase of eight per cent from last year.

“Despite the tough economic climate, there is an air of optimism amongst small business owners as we move into 2024. Compared to this time last year there has been a notable surge in employers dedicating greater resources to the development and growth of their staff,” stated Raj Singh, CEO at Peninsula Canada. “Globally, apprenticeships have seen a remarkable 36 per cent increase, while upskilling and training have witnessed a 28 per cent increase. And more than half of employees were given a pay raise or offered flexible working.”

He says that employers are adjusting to the issues of labour shortages and employee retention.

“Faced with these obstacles, SMBs acknowledged that fostering employee retention was key. And one of the best ways to overcome these challenges, was to invest in their employees and that is what we saw happen last year,” he explained. “By prioritizing the professional growth of their employees, businesses not only mitigate the effects of labour shortages but also cultivate a skilled and motivated workforce, fill in gaps in the workplace, and set the foundation for continued success in the ever-evolving business landscape.”




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