In 2003 BC introduced a modularized trades training system, and the Industry Training Authority (ITA) was introduced to govern this system. To become a certified journeyperson, workers must still complete an apprenticeship, but the BC system no longer included “compulsory trades”. These are trades that only allow certified journey people or indentured apprentices to practice. Prior to 2003 there were 11 compulsory trades in BC.
Stringent requirements remain in place to ensure that the work is done to a high level of skill and safety, for example through the work of Technical Safety BC. Obtaining a Certificate of Qualification from Technical Safety BC provides assurance that tradespeople have the knowledge and ability to do regulated work in the province. The Safety Standards Act defines the scope of regulated work within the specific certificate.
Advocates of the current BC system like it because:
- It decreases training time requirement, making it easier to attract people to the trades
- Apprentices have more flexibility in pursuing types of specialization within their trade
- Employers can play a more active role in identifying skill requirements for their apprentices
Opponents of the BC system say:
- compulsory trades make the industry safer
- the quality of work is higher
- BC should align with the rest of Canada
The Council of Construction Associations (COCA), which represents 20 BC construction associations from every sector, company size, and labour affiliation, has confirmed that from a health and safety perspective the compulsory trade requirement has no impact. COCA has reviewed safety data from across Canada and has found no safety correlation. This is because the Worksafe BC health and safety regulations apply universally to all employers, workers, and job sites. The worker is therefore protected in either context: the result is that BC has the same safety record as other provinces that have compulsory trades.
The most measurable impacts of the BC system have been an overall increase in registered apprentices but a decrease in apprenticeship completions.
The BCCA strongly supports training and has always been a proponent of apprenticeship: 85% of our members hire and train apprentices, and we operate some of the most innovative and far-reaching training initiatives in Canada. We know the right training is essential for safety and career development.
However, adding new barriers to entering the skilled trades may not be a productive course for our industry or for BC’s economy as a whole. Here’s why:
- BC’s construction industry is facing a skills shortage of at least 11,000 workers: likely as many as 19,000 now that the LNG Canada project is confirmed.
- Unemployment in BC is at generational lows in construction and most other industries. Job seekers have many options: we are competing with all of them.
- The majority of BC’s construction employers (80%) have ten employees or less, limiting their operational capacity to participate in the apprenticeship system.
- Most Level 1-4 training programs for apprenticeable trades are already operating at near or full capacity. Waitlists can already be as long as one year.
- There is no measurable difference in safety outcome between provinces with compulsory trades and BC.
Trade unions require apprenticeship of all dues paying members and offer apprenticeship training programs: they are highly supportive of the re-introduction of compulsory trades. Large employers have greater capacity to support apprenticeship programs and will not be unduly impacted by a return to compulsory trades. However the industry as a whole – and small employers in particular – may be challenged to adopt compulsory trades, especially given the current level of construction activity and shortage of labour supply in the sector.
BCCA supports a fair, flexible solution that achieves a high standard of skill and safety without over-burdening workers or their employers with unnecessary barriers. We represent employers from all labour affiliations and seek to ensure a productive and resilient industry for all.
Updates & Statements
BCCA STATEMENT in response to MAEST announcement of the Skilled Trades BC Act | February 14, 2022
BCCA Statement Regarding Compulsory Trades | June 21, 2021
BCCA President, Chris Atchison, Attends Discussion About Compulsory Trades | October 24, 2019