Apprenticeship seats at NAIT will be cut back by approximately 2,000 for the 2018-19 academic year. As a result, it is estimated that 40 staff members will be laid off. This is after a reduction of 3,100 apprenticeship spots and almost 60 staff layoffs in the 2017-18 school year.
The programs that will be most affected are Electricians, Steamfitter/Pipefitter, Millwright, Plumbing, Heavy Equipment Technician and Machinist programs. These cuts are dictated by the Apprenticeship and Industry Training (AIT) system, which monitors the economy, the number of students enrolled in apprenticeship programs and the rate of employers hiring, in order to determine the need for trades.
Malcolm Haines, dean of NAIT’s School of Trades, said AIT mandates the cutbacks to ensure that NAIT does not provide more seats than what are available.
“AIT bases their ask to us on how many people are registered in the system and people don’t get registered in the system until employers hire them,” Haines said. “It’s a vicious cycle and a large part of it has to do with how our economy operates here in Alberta.”
Haines says that when the jobs begin to rise, the School of Trades will need a grace period of at least two years to get their system back up and running.
“Our system relies on that progression of people that will be going through it one year at a time. That’s really what we’re faced with right now … reloading the system from the ground up again,” he said.
Haines expects to see another reduction of seats in the 2019-2020 school year but he is optimistic that industry, and in turn, apprenticeship seats, will be on the rise within the next two years.
“The government doesn’t expect an overall rise in numbers until about 20-21 … I’m optimistic that things will turn around a little faster than that,” Haines said.To minimize the loss of apprentices, the government has allocated funding dedicated to apprentices who are between jobs, to encourage them to continue their education and remain in the apprentice system until seats begin to rise.
All affected staff are being kept up to date about their future at NAIT and the School of Trades is working to keep as many staff as possible.
Last year, two years of full-time tuition was offered to any staff member that was affected by the redundancy and Haines expects the same will be offered to those affected this year.
– Shawna Bannerman, Assistant Editor
– Photo from NAIT