N.S. apprenticeship program could get overhaul

Opposition Liberals announce plan on eve of election – but labour group says plan benefits Alberta, not Nova Scotia
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 09/06/2013

With an election expected to be called soon, Nova Scotia’s Liberal party is proposing new measures that would make apprenticeships more accessible for young workers — but a provincial labour leader isn’t a fan of the proposal.

Liberal leader Stephen McNeil announced the party’s plan for Nova Scotia’s apprenticeship program on Sept. 5. Nova Scotia currently has an NDP majority government led by Premier Darrell Dexter.

Many local workers are forced to gain experience in Western provinces because of the lack of apprenticeship positions in Nova Scotia, said McNeil. The hours worked outside of the province, however, do not count towards trades accreditation in Nova Scotia.

The measures outlined in the Liberal plan would allow experience gained in other Canadian jurisdictions to count towards accreditation requirements in Nova Scotia. These new measures are designed to encourage more Nova Scotia apprentices to return home to work, McNeil said.

“We want to improve labour mobility and ensure our sons and daughters are able to come back home after gaining trades experience outside of Nova Scotia,” he said. “Our plan would allow apprentices to finish their apprenticeship program and return to help build our local economy and our local communities.”

‘A step backward’

Rick Clarke, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, criticized the Liberal plan, calling it a step backward.

“The Liberal plan is about creating jobs in Alberta, not jobs here in Nova Scotia,” Clarke said. “Voting for Stephen McNeil and the Liberals would be a big risk for workers and their families.”

Clarke said Liberals are misrepresenting how accreditation hours work.

“The Liberals announced a plan affecting workers and didn’t invite a single workers representative to the announcement. Neither the Federation of Labour nor the Mainland Building Trades Council was invited to attend. Why don’t the Liberals want workers representatives at their announcements?”

At the announcement, McNeil also declared his intention to work with trade industries, labour representatives and employers to create more flexible block training and adjust apprenticeship ratios to create more opportunities for young residents to complete apprenticeship programs.

“The Liberal plan will make much needed changes to the apprenticeship program, which has become restrictive for the Nova Scotia economy. It is time for the provincial government to put the needs of Nova Scotia workers and businesses first,” McNeil said.

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