Increased trade certification in Nunavut requires more support for families, gov't hears

If more Nunavummiut are going to succeed in trade apprenticeships, then the government needs to support their family members too, communities are telling the Department of Family Services. 

This comes via feedback from ongoing consultations over changes to the territories Apprenticeship Act. Staff from the department's career development division hosted meetings in Baker Lake from Jan. 27 to Jan. 31, and are heading to Rankin Inlet Feb. 3 though Feb. 7. 

The same feedback came after consultations in Cambridge Bay held in October. The department will also visit Arviat and Clyde River, and will meet with Inuit organisations in Iqaluit.  

Act comes from N.W.T.

The legislation governs apprenticeship programming for journeyperson trades like carpentry, plumbing and heavy equipment technician. But the act is from the Northwest Territories and hasn't been updated since Nunavut was made.

To apprentice for a trade that would lead to trade certification, people have to travel for classroom time at the trades college in Rankin Inlet, or even to the south. 

Dave Gunn/CBC

Communities are saying that this is one of the main challenges for apprentices. It puts strain on young families. The department said it was seeing people leave courses before they were over to be with their families. 

Robert Clift, director of career development for the Department of Family Services says the new legislation can help to fill these gaps.  

"For a long time we were focused on getting the most people through the training. So we weren't providing the full support people needed," Clift said. "It's better to support fewer trainees well ... than to train a lot of people who don't end up where they want to be." 

He says the mining industry has a high demand for staff certified in journeyperson trades, and the department is struggling to train people for those jobs. 

Department pilots family funding for trades students

The department wants to fund travel and training support for trades learners and their families, so that more students finish their programs. Right now the department is helping to fund four students and their families to go to trades school in Rankin Inlet. 

"At least two of those students said if they couldn't bring their families they weren't going to go to the program," said Clift. "One student said he was going to save up every dollar that he had from his training money in order that he could bring his family."

That's why the department is changing up its training model, so that people can get trades skills that make them ready for the workplace, without finishing a full apprenticeship. It Nunavut it can take three to four years to get to be a journeyperson. 

In Rankin Inlet, you can study to be a carpenter, electrician, housing maintainer, oil heat system technician or plumber. Welders, heavy equipment technicians and automotive technicians are also trades in high demand in Nunavut, but you have to learn those jobs in the south. 

There are around 130 trade apprentices registered in Nunavut with the department. Around 10 graduate each year. 

Industry will have more input

New legislation will give more power to an apprenticeship board that will include trades people from the construction and mining industry.

The board will decide on standards for trade certification, training curriculum and which trades will be taught. 

"Governments have changed the balance so that people who actually are journey people or people who employ journey people are the people making the primary decisions," Clift said. "Rather than somebody in government telling industry, 'this is what you have to have,' it really needs to be industry telling government, 'this is what we need.' And that's not the way it is in Nunavut right now."

The department hopes to see the new act in place by the spring of 2021. For now, Clift says it needs to draft the new Apprenticeship Act. 

"I want to hear more of what's happening from the communities before we start," he said.