Using leading-edge interactive technology, the Regional Apprenticeship Forum took place at three sites across the province with Joan Burke, minister of Advanced Education and Skills, opening the forum from Stephenville and she was joined by Susan Sullivan, minister of Health and Community Services in Grand Falls-Windsor, and in Labrador City by the Nick McGrath, minister responsible for Labrador Affairs.
At a break in the roundtable discussions, Jane Barter, a community studies instructor at Bay St. George campus of College of the North Atlantic and a facilitator for the event, said there were a lot of burning issues employers brought forward about apprenticeships themselves and a lot of discussion around how to solve some of these issues.
“There seems to be a good theme about the actual linkage towards employers and employees for the apprenticeship programs. A lot of apprentices say they don’t understand the process of being registered and a lot of employers are saying they don’t understand the process either, so there’s a missing link there,” she said.
Barter feels that gap will be filled.
“I think the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is listening and that’s why they’re having these discussions. This is about how the issues that exist can be brought to the forefront and solved. Where we can bridge that gap and make it much easier for the process for both the employers and the employees,” she said.
Susan Curtis of Buds Auto Body Ltd. in Corner Brook said for her the morning discussion was interesting.
“There’s a lot of different factors for me because my field of employment is structured a little bit different than others, so some of the other people in the room have lots of prospects for apprentices but I don’t have a lot of prospects for apprentices,” she said.
Curtis said their business has to do things a little differently. She said they’ve recently hired someone brand new who had no schooling in their business at all, so that person was given on-the-job training prior to going to school, versus a lot of other people at the roundtable who are getting people who are already coming out of school with their preliminary training completed.
She said in their field it’s very difficult to get employees and she didn’t know if what was taking place at the roundtable would end up helping their auto body business, but she hoped it would.
Curtis said at the table she was at the biggest discussion was around how everybody is on the same page, with students going to school and getting so much information, employers getting so much information and government department people having so much information, but none of that is truly overlapping.
“I just feel like there’s so many different factors. Every one of the Red Seal programs has so many different factors, how do you go about solving all of this? I don’t know if there’s something that can be done, so basically we just need to talk about it,” she said.
Burke said the information gathered through discussions at the Regional Apprenticeship Forum would help highlight issues and provide future direction for skilled trades in Newfoundland and Labrador.
She said forum was enabling key industry representatives to communicate with one another from locations across the province to gain and share perspectives and opinions.