Latest data shows Alberta apprentice numbers plummeting

Despite declining apprenticeship numbers, Alberta hopes it can turn things around as it emerges from the pandemic.

Grade 12 pipefitting student, Quinn Tubrett demonstrates welding skills to MLA R.J. Sigurdson

Alberta grade 12 pipefitting student, Quinn Tubrett, demonstrates welding skills to MLA R.J. Sigurdson.

Key Takeaways:

  • Alberta is reporting a 35 per cent decline in apprenticeship enrolment over the past five years.
  • A sharp decline occurred during the height of the pandemic when in-class learning was suspended.
  • Officials are implementing a variety of measures, including updating 30-year-old apprenticeship legislation, to reverse the trend.

The Whole Story:

The latest data from the government of Alberta shows alarming numbers for apprenticeships in the prairies. 

Alberta reported a 35 per cent drop in apprenticeship enrolment over the past five years in its latest advanced education report.

The total domestic enrolment headcount generally showed a flat trend between 2016-2017 and 2020-21, with minor fluctuations from year to year. In 2020-2021 school year, enrolment among apprenticeship learners rose by 30 per cent from 2019-2020, which contributed to the increase in total domestic enrolment between 2019-2020 and 2020-2021. 

COVID-19 takes its toll

The province’s annual report stated that there was a sharp decline in enrolment among apprenticeship learners in the 2019-2020 year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Officials explained that two rounds of intake for apprentice in-class learning were suspended for all relevant post-secondary institutions. Although intake resumed the following year and apprenticeship enrolment increased in 2020-21, there has been a total drop of 35 per cent in apprenticeship enrolment over the past five years.

Despite this, graduates are working. the province reported that 92 per cent of recent apprenticeship graduates were currently employed. This is two percentage points higher than 2020 and is above what was observed in 2016 and 2018.

Officials hope to gain even more insight. For the first time, the most recent interaction of the 2022 apprenticeship graduation survey included first-period apprentices as well as apprentices who graduated  in 2020 and 2021. 

“Surveying first-period apprentices provides a better understanding of pathways into apprenticeship education and valuable insight on access and progression challenges they face,” stated the report. “This knowledge will help the ministry understand and improve first-period attrition rates.”

Turning the tide

There’s a variety of other measures underway that the province hopes could boost numbers. Red Deer College and Grand Prairie Regional College were granted polytechnic status last year giving students in these regions more choice in apprenticeship, degree and certificate programs.

The province is also poised to implement the Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Education Act sometime this year. The province called the legislation “the largest update of trades and apprenticeship legislation in 30 years”.   

New legislation on the horizon

Some notable changes include separating apprenticeship education and regulation of skilled trades professionals. Apprenticeship education programs can also be formed without the need for a trade designation, and vice versa, and trades can be designated without requiring an apprenticeship education program.

Once in effect, apprentices won’t need a sponsor to register in an apprenticeship education program. And a registered apprentice that meets entrance requirements can register for classroom instruction. Those lacking a sponsor can’t perform restricted activities within a designated trade tied to that education program or receive the onsite instruction by an apprenticeship education program.

The act also created the Alberta Board of Skilled Trades and outlines the power and functions of the board, including its ability to make orders and establish committees for designated trades. The appointed 15-member board advises the Alberta minister for advanced education on the direction of the province’s designated trades certification system.


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