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Associations, Labour

How CLAC opened the door for 1,717 new first-year apprentices

Jean Sorensen
How CLAC opened the door for 1,717 new first-year apprentices

When the (CLAC) ended its two-year, first-year apprentice support drive that brought 1,717 new registered apprentices into the Canadian manufacturing and construction sectors, that success was solidly rooted on a winning recruiting strategy.

CLAC’s strategy relied upon thinking larger than just the organization, removing hiring roadblocks for both new entrants and companies, and putting together a passionate and winning team that would co-ordinate the CLAC Apprenticeship Support Program (CASP), said program director Colin deRaaf.

Of the 1,717 new first-year apprentices, only 218 were individuals that registered with CLAC companies as CASP adopted a holistic approach.

“We are all in a community and everyone is succeeding when they are hiring new apprentices. It is a feeder system; some go to unions and some to other employers, but they are all in it together and some will come back to us,” said deRaaf.

DeRaaf began the two-year campaign by assembling a team that was passionate about bringing new people into the apprentice system.

CASP focused mainly on Ontario and the west with representatives in each province that would help search out employers able to take on new apprentices. But, it also needed an internal organization team to help with information and manage incentive funding supplied by Canada’s Apprentice Service.

The CASP assembled team consisted of deRaaf along with Ashley Ianni, CASP manager, and on a national recruiting and operations scale: Tila Campbell, Karyna Chudesnykova, Nuha Mahdi, Adrienne Copeland, Russ Gaida, Julia Ulmer, Jessie Clark, Emily Bryksa, Tamsin Carter, Ceilidh Milne and Megan Brodeur.

The communications and marketing support came from Kevin Tamming, Kari-Anne March, Louise Venables and Amberly Winger.

CASP’s original target was to search out 700 new employers — a figure that would more than double by the campaign’s end.

The CASP project targeted the small and medium employers (SME), said deRaaf. These were companies that may not have heard about the federal government program that provided incentive financial aid for hiring first-year apprentices.

As well, smaller companies may have been reluctant to hire first-year individuals because of the associated cost as new apprentices are mainly learning the first year.

The team on the ground visited chambers of commerce, job fairs, recruitment areas and suppliers who might lead them to small employers and then CASP door-knocked.

“We would ask them — have you considered this new program?” he said.

In total, the team identified 2,346 companies and signed SME agreements with 1,944, far surpassing the original 700 goal.

DeRaaf said the federal government support program addressed another issue with SMEs, cost.

The $5,000 hiring incentive helped defray the cost of taking on a first-year apprentice. The employer could apply for another $5,000 if the new apprentice was from an equity deserving group such as women, newcomers to Canada, an Indigenous person, a person with disabilities, a person belonging to a visible minority group and/or a member of the LGBTQ2+ community.

“The other success we had in the program was the self-identify, equity deserving groups,” said deRaaf, as it was found 63 per cent of those hired self-identified with a group.

The figure more than doubled the 15 to 25 per cent target.

CASP didn’t find apprentices but helped pave the way for SMEs to search.

DeRaaf said CASP encouraged employers to expand their hiring horizons and look beyond labels but also provide information on how to source individuals from new areas.

“We had the resources to tell an employer how to engage with the local high school, get their co-operation and connect with students,” he said. “If they are in close proximity to an Indigenous group, we helped with who they should connect.”

CASP also advised on practical issues such as hiring women and the need to ensure personal protective equipment fit the female body.

Originally, CASP was distributing $11.5 million in incentives, but CLAC’s success would raise the figure to $14.5 million to distribute. The two year program ended March 31, although some incentive payments are continuing to the end of June or until funds run out.

“We met our initial goal two months prior to the end of the program, so Canada’s Apprenticeship Service allowed us to distribute another $3.7 million, which we are on track to achieve,” said deRaaf.

DeRaaf considers CASP an “overwhelming success” but registering the apprentices is only the first phase.

“We are now in the next phase and that is retaining these new people,” deRaaf said, as CLAC hopes to play a role in helping employers. “We met a lot new friends across the provinces and we want to carry on those relationships.”

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