The Government of Canada recognizes how essential skilled trades are to the country's economy, and this week they're backing that up with an announcement of $21M that's set to create at least 2,100 construction apprentice positions in BC.

The announcement — made by Kamal Khera, the Minister of Seniors in Victoria on behalf of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development, and Disability Inclusion — said the money would go towards the British Columbia Construction Association and its Construction Industry Apprenticeship Program.

The program will provide funding for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) — employers with less than 500 employees — in BC to create apprenticeship positions in eligible Red Seal trades. According to the British Columbia Construction Association, 39 Red Seal trades will be eligible, which include jobs in carpentry, heavy equipment operation, insulation, pipefitting, welding, and more.

Furthermore, the Government of Canada said those 2,100 positions will include a minimum of 500 people from "equity-deserving groups." According to the BCCA, that includes anybody who "self-reports as a woman, new Canadian, LGBTQ+, Indigenous, a person with a disability, or a visible minority." The BCCA recognizes that the construction industry in BC is approximately 95% male, and hopes this new apprentice funding will contribute towards more workforce diversity.

Eligible employers will receive $5,000 for hiring a new employee or registering an existing one as a first-year apprentice. If the employee self-reports as a member of one of the aforementioned groups, the employer will receive an additional $5,000. Employers can receive these payments for a maximum of two employees each year, and with the $21M in funding being earmarked for two years, this means employers can receive a maximum of $40,000. The BCCA said the government did not set restrictions for what that money can then be used for, but will likely go towards things like hiring bonuses, raises, equipment, tools, and more.

On top of addressing workforce diversity, the new program also seeks to alleviate the construction industry's workface shortage, especially, the BCCA said, "during a time of high demand for construction services." According to a statistic the federal government provided in the announcement, the industry needs to "recruit 309,000 new workers over the next decade (2021 to 2030), driven predominantly by the expected retirement of 259,100 workers."

“We need more skilled trades workers in British Columbia, and across Canada. That’s why we’re working with employers to create tens of thousands of new apprenticeships', said Carla Qualtrough, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.

In late May, the Government of Canada announced a similar investment of $247M in funding May towards creating apprenticeship positions across Canada. This week's announcement is specific to BC and trades in the construction industry.

According to the BCCA's apprenticeship page, "Apprentices are the future of our industry. They start on the tools, but they become our company presidents. The career potential is phenomenal, if only more of our young people could see it!”