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New CSA standard aims to ensure apprenticeship opportunities are open to everyone

Angela Gismondi
New CSA standard aims to ensure apprenticeship opportunities are open to everyone

has developed a new standard on equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility (EDIA) in apprenticeship programs to help increase representation and improve outcomes from equity-deserving groups in the skilled trades in Canada.

is designed to assist organizations in addressing the low participation and retention rates of groups such as Indigenous people, racialized groups, women, people with disabilities, people who are neurodiverse, 2SLGBTQIA+ and newcomers to Canada in apprenticeships.

Kay Penn, director of health and safety standards at CSA Group, said Canada needs more skilled trades workers but barriers may prevent certain groups from accessing apprenticeship opportunities.

“Women are still drastically underrepresented in most skilled trades and then to add to this as well the journey through apprenticeship is very complex. There’s no single path,” said Penn. “This standard aims to help with that. There’s a need to change the workplace culture so that we recruit and retain not just women but traditionally underrepresented groups in order to meet the growing need for skilled workers.”


Standard examines barriers to apprenticeship

The standard embeds the fundamental building blocks for establishing an EDIA program and any organization can adapt it to suit their needs.

“It takes you through that whole journey from the beginning right through the end,” said Penn.

“From the pipeline of activities that leads you into apprenticeship…to the training and testing and recognition of the apprentice as a journeyperson.”

The standard was prepared by a technical committee on EDIA in apprenticeship programs, under the jurisdiction of the Strategic Steering Committee on Occupational Health and Safety.

“We needed them on the committee to be able to hear their voices,” Penn explained. “We identified some of the issues and barriers that they face and the standard helps to address those.

“One of the barriers identified was the general lack of awareness of the trades and people not knowing how to get their foot in the door.”

Many people who enter careers in the trades have come from families and communities with connections in those areas, she pointed out.

“Apprenticeship relies on being sponsored and having access to mentors in the community who can help you through that process and educate, help you understand,” said Penn. “It can be a difficult path for people in underrepresented groups…who just don’t have those connections.”

Another barrier identified was access to accommodation, which includes facilities to enable people to work with dignity.

“Accommodations for persons with disabilities in the trades and accommodations for different religious beliefs, so if you are on a construction site do they have suitable washing facilities for religious beliefs,” she asked.

She also discussed different needs in the classroom setting.

“People might have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder),” she said. “You have to accommodate for the learning differences. We also heard about flexibility around schedule. That was another key barrier that was identified. In addition to that there is micro aggressions, violence and harassment and how these types of things are managed. The standard provides guidance on that as well.”

Gender challenges for women in construction was another key challenge. This may include suitable bathrooms and personal protective equipment (PPE) specifically for women.

“One person shared that she could not enter a space…because she didn’t have the proper PPE to keep her safe,” Penn said. “That prevented her from that learning experience as an apprentice. On top of that, still related to gender biases that prevent them from gaining the full learning experience, we hear that the work is too dirty for a woman or too heavy, so they don’t get that experience, it’s assigned to someone else.”


Guidance for addressing barriers to EDIA

In addition to shedding light on the challenges, the standard also provides guidance on how to address barriers.

“How to create awareness of the trades at outreach events for example, how do you have inclusive recruitment, recruiting all demographic groups in apprenticeship, how to get some of these people without those connections, how to help them to get their foot into the door, how to support their training, the completion of hours with the accommodations until their recognition as a journeyperson,” she said, listing all the areas the standard covers.

“For employers it talks about how to have equity and fairness when you are assessing the application of apprentices. How do you reduce selection biases and also provide guidance on how do you create a workplace culture that reflects the different needs of the diverse workforce that you have.”

To date, the Canadian District of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America has supported the standard and CSA is working to get other groups to implement it.

Follow the author on X/Twitter @DCN_Angela.


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