The Nelson Chamber of Commerce isn’t sitting on its hands when it comes to supporting the creation of new apprenticeship opportunities in the Kootenays.
Executive director Tom Thomson believes this is a critical time to get the ball rolling as older tradespeople prepare to retire.
Following the release last week of a manufacturing report that identified apprenticeships as a priority for the local economy, Thomson invited the Industry Training Authority (ITA) to Railtown for a luncheon that included local employers as well as representatives from School District 8 and Selkirk College.
One of the main speakers was Marlin Ratch, ITA’s apprenticeship advisor. Before the event he shared with the Star the many benefits apprenticeships could have for the Nelson economy.
“The demand for workers in B.C. in general is increasing, and with baby boomers retiring at an accelerated rate there’s all kinds of jobs opening up,” he said.
“They have to come from somewhere.”
Ratch’s role with ITA entails helping employers access the support services they need to figure out how to incorporate apprentices into their operation — helping them find government funding, fill out the proper forms and source appropriate employees. During the session he took participants through the process step by step.
“Making sure the right information gets into their hands is extremely important because there are a lot of advantages to hiring an apprentice as opposed to trying to find someone from the ever-shrinking pool of fully certified people,” he said.
“Training from the ground up has a distinct advantage.”
According to Ratch, more jobs fall under the trades category than some people realize, which means apprenticeships aren’t only for electricians and construction workers.
Being a cook or a hairstylist or a funeral director — all of these career paths involve apprenticeships. Ultimately, the ITA works with hundreds of different trades jobs, but they all follow the same basic set-up.
“As soon as we sign up an employer their major tasks are two-fold: reporting their hours, and being a mentor for that apprentice,” he said.
“Twenty per cent of the learning is done in the classroom, and the other 80 per cent is actually on the job.”
That may seem like a lot to take on, for some, but attendees heard firsthand experience from local employer Ralph Goodwin-Wilson of CGW Plumbing, who has worked with multiple apprentices over the years including Selkirk College student Jay Schmunk, who participated in the discussion.
During the event, ITA’s CEO Gary Heyman said there are over one million job openings coming in the next 10 years in B.C., and he feels employers should be focusing on succession-planning because “it’s the right thing to do.”
His organization plans to continue to build partnerships with business communities such as the Nelson chamber, to ensure those future job openings will end up filled.
“Only one in five trades employers hire apprentices and we need more to step up and hire and train the next generation of tradespeople in B.C.,” he said.
“Apprenticeships are beneficial for both employers and apprentices, and we hope this event provided encouragement and support for employers that already have apprentices and those that are thinking about hiring one in the future.”