July 2016 – Article – Shedding Light on the Apprenticeship Experience


Apprenticeship and the availability of skilled trades has been a popular topic in the news over the past few years where the focus has been on worker shortages and the high demand for skilled workers.  In an effort to move beyond the headline, the Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS) is undertaking a multi-year study of Ontario’s construction industry apprentices to better understand their experiences as they navigate through their apprenticeship program.

Previous research has shown that only about 50% of apprentices actually complete their apprenticeship program and receive a Certificate of Qualification.  Although some of those people may continue to work in the industry, there is a significant opportunity cost to all stakeholders in terms of lost productivity, diminished income and work opportunities and wasted scarce training resources.  The goal of this research is to identify “who registers, who quits, who completes and why?”

OCS is engaging with construction industry apprentices via an online portal – MyTradesJourney.ca.  Apprentices are invited to register for the study and once a ‘member’, they are prompted to complete 3—4 short surveys on an annual basis.  The surveys focus on the demographic characteristics of the apprentice, their employment experiences and their progress through the in-class training component of the apprenticeship program.

Over the past 18 months, approximately 1000 apprentices have registered in the study and are sharing interesting insights.  From a recent survey, 21% of the apprentices reported they are behind in their work experience, primarily due to long periods of unemployment.  We also learned that 18% of the apprentices feel they are lagging behind with their in-school training. The reasons cited are varied with 37% indicating they are working at a job related to their apprenticeship; 11% noting their employer has made it difficult to take time off to attend in-school training; and 9% indicating health or other personal circumstances.

OCS is continuing recruitment through 2016 and invites all Business Managers and training stakeholders to encourage their apprentices to participate. OCS will be actively recruiting apprentices through late August and September. For further information please contact Katherine Jacobs, Director of Research at kjacobs@iciconstruction.com or 416-620-5210 x225.  Apprentices can register directly at www.MyTradesJourney.ca.

Did You Know:

Apprenticeship, as a form of training and educating future journeypersons, has roots dating back to the Middle Ages. Historically, the guild system was characterized by a hierarchy of apprentices, journeymen and masters. These guilds developed regulations whereby apprentices worked closely with Masters to learn their ‘craft’.  Apprentices typically lived with their Masters who agreed to clothe, feed and shelter them for the duration of their training (often up to 8 years or more). Upon completion, the apprentice would advance to Journeyperson status and received a small stipend from their Master.  Although the general approach to apprenticeship training remains the same – imparting skills and knowledge from Master to Apprentice – thankfully the system has evolved over the centuries.




Katherine Jacobs
Director of Research,


Fred Lehmann
Communications Coordinator,

Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS)
180 Attwell Drive, Suite 360, Toronto, ON M9W 6A9
P 416.620.5210 ext. 222
F 416.620.5310