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Sound advice: PCL shapes training programs based on apprentice feedback

Warren Frey
Sound advice: PCL shapes training programs based on apprentice feedback

One of Canada’s largest construction employers is turning apprentice input into new programs to recruit and retain the next generation of skilled tradespeople.

superintendent Darren Erdely addressed attendees at the National Apprenticeship Conference in Calgary recently with a session titled, Certified Apprenticeship Program: How to Empower PCL Apprentices for a Sustainable Future.

Erdely explained PCL began work on two programs to both retain apprentices and grow their roles after experiencing difficulty with both finding apprentices and retaining those who joined the company.

“We had a lot of issues and struggled with getting enough apprentices and the skill sets of ones we got weren’t good enough because they hadn’t had the exposure (to the industry) they needed,” Erdely said.

He added many apprentices would leave for a number of different reasons, primarily a lack of work close to their primary residences.

PCL decided to poll their apprentices through a survey in order to determine “what we do well and to improve and track apprentice progress,” he said.

“They gave us suggestions on attraction and retention of apprentices and we built programs based around the results we got from the survey,” Erdely said.

“Apprentices wanted incentive programs, assistance with school and didn’t want to be shuffled around. They also wanted additional training courses, leadership and training programs.”

The Apprenticeship Mentoring Program (AMP) is open to all apprentices and documents how they are gaining experience and determines if they’re receiving it from the right mentors.

“It’s been rolled out in its early stages, with a good reception from both apprentices and mentors because we’ve set up so much structure around the program (already)” Erdely said.

Another initiative, the Certified Apprenticeship Program (CAP), is intended to recognize the highest performing apprentices and may potentially include a tuition reimbursement program.

“The CAP program isn’t completed yet but we’re hoping to get it rolled out in the near future. Applicants have to be in the AMP first and will need further criteria to be qualified to join,” he said.

“We’re hoping to be up and running within the year. We want to make sure it’s well laid-out before we do.”

The need for new apprentices will only become more intense as time goes on, Erdely said.

“I don’t know if we have more apprentices than last year, but it feels like less. The industry is struggling to get apprentices and with amount of work on the way in the coming years, it will just get harder,” he said.

He added PCL is out in the community looking to promote skilled trades careers to young people and underrepresented groups wherever possible.

“We’re partnered with Women Building Futures and other organizations, and we speak at schools trade fairs and conferences,” he said.

“I’m boots-on-the-ground engaging people on the front lines. We want to find tradespeople wherever we can.”

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