May 6, 2020
Posted in: Apprenticeship
GDI has delivered or supported training in skilled trades for almost three decades. Since 2011, when GDI launched its first apprenticeship program, it has supported the creation of 1,198 jobs for Indigenous apprentices across Saskatchewan. The GDI-Skills and Partnership Fund Aboriginal Apprenticeship Initiative (2011-2014) resulted in 223 new apprenticeship jobs.
This was followed by the GDI-WD Indigenous Apprenticeship Project (2014-2017) which was funded by the Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) and industry. The program supported 407 Indigenous apprenticeship jobs.
The current GDI-SPF Indigenous Apprenticeship Project (2017-2021) has so far led to 568 new Indigenous apprenticeship jobs.
The Saskatchewan apprenticeship system is employer-driven, hence, it is closely tied to the province’s economic and labour market cycles. When the economy is doing well, there tends to be a higher demand for apprentices.
The number of registered apprentices in Saskatchewan has been decreasing steadily over the past six years, from 10,352 in 2013-2014 to 6,483 in 2018-2019, a decline of 37.3%. (see Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission, 2018-19 Annual Report, page 12).
The GDI-SPF (2011-2014) was launched in 2011. During 2011-2012, there were 9,724 registered apprentices in Saskatchewan including 1,288 (or 13.2%) who were of Indigenous ancestry. The following year, in 2012-2013, the total number of registered apprentices in the province increased to 10,023. The number of Indigenous apprentices increased at a higher proportion to 1,383 or 13.8% of the total number of registered apprentices.
The growth in the number of registered apprentices continued in 2013-2014, the final year of the GDI-SPF Aboriginal Apprenticeship Initiative. During that year, there were 10,352 registered apprentices in Saskatchewan including 1,532 who were of Indigenous ancestry (or 14.8% of all registered apprentices in the province).
These numbers tell us that 1) during the three years of the GDI-SPF Aboriginal Apprenticeship Initiative, the total number of registered apprentices – including the number of Indigenous apprentices – province increased, and 2) that the proportion of apprentices who are Indigenous grew faster than that of non-Indigenous apprentices (namely, from 13.2% in 2011-2012, to 13.8% in 2012-2013, to 14.8% in 2013-2014).
2014 was a remarkable year. The GDI-SPF Aboriginal Apprenticeship Initiative program was successfully concluded and the GDI-WD Aboriginal Apprenticeship Project (2014-2017) started. There were a few months of inactivity between the two programs as the Institute did not recruit new Indigenous apprentices. In Saskatchewan, the economy was quite strong with a low unemployment rate of 3.3% in June 2014 (compared to unemployment rate of 6.2% in February 2020 just before the first corona virus case was reported in Canada). Unemployment rate is the number of unemployed people as a percentage of the labour force.
Yet, 2014-2015, saw a decline in the number of registered apprentices compared to 2013-2014. Specifically, the total number of registered apprentices decreased by 4.0% from 10,352 in 2013-2014 to 9,953 in 2014-2015. Interestingly, the number of Indigenous apprentices decreased by 10.4% from 1,532 to 1,388 in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 respectively.
More research may be needed to determine why the number of Indigenous apprentices decreased dramatically in 2014-2015. But, because the provincial economy was strong, it is likely that the disruption resulting from the conclusion of GDI-SPF (2011-2014) and the start of GDI-WD (2014-2017) apprenticeship programs in which for about six months the Institute did not recruit Indigenous apprentices may have had a negative impact not just on the number of Indigenous apprentices, but also on the total number of apprentices in the province.
2015-2016 was a tough year in Saskatchewan. In June 2015, unemployment rate was 4.2%. It rose to 4.4% in September, and 5.1% in December. By June 2016, unemployment rate was 5.5%. As would be expected, the apprenticeship ecosystem in the province took a hit with the total number of registered apprentices falling by 5.4% from the previous year.
However, during this period, the number of Indigenous apprentices in Saskatchewan increased from 1,388 to 1,436. The number of Indigenous apprentices as a proportion of total registered apprentices in Saskatchewan was 15.2% – a five year high.
In other words, more and more people in Saskatchewan were looking for work but unable to find employment and the number of registered apprentices in Saskatchewan was falling. Yet, the number of Indigenous apprentices was growing. It is clear that there is a link between GDI-WD Aboriginal Apprenticeship Program and the rise in the number of Indigenous apprentices in the province.
In 2016-2017, the last year of the GDI-WD Aboriginal Apprenticeship Program, Saskatchewan economy was still struggling. Unemployment rate was 5.5% in June 2016 and 6.4% in June 2017. The total number of registered apprentices in Saskatchewan decreased by 15.3% from 2015-2016. The number of registered Indigenous apprentices also decreased, but at a slower rate – of 9.2%. In fact, the proportion of registered apprentices in Saskatchewan who self-identified as Indigenous was at a near record high at 16.1% in 2016-2017.
In 2017, the GDI-SPF Indigenous Apprenticeship Project (2017-2021) was launched. In 2017-2018, the total number of registered apprentices in Saskatchewan decreased by 7.8% from the previous year. Number of Indigenous apprentices fell by 3.1%. The proportion of apprentices in Saskatchewan who were Indigenous increased to 16.8%.
Note that, according to the 2016 Census data, 16.3% of Saskatchewan population self-identified as Indigenous. That is, the proportion of Indigenous apprentices was higher than the proportion of Indigenous people among the general population of Saskatchewan (16.8% vs. 16.3% respectively).
The most recent data available from the SATCC is for 2018-2019. In June 2019, there were 6,483 registered apprentices in Saskatchewan. Of those apprentices, 1,131 (or 17.4%) identified as Indigenous. While the total number of registered apprentices in Saskatchewan has been declining since 2013-2014, the number of Indigenous apprentices has either increased or decreased at a lower rate than the total number of registered apprentices. Further, the proportion of apprentices who are self-identified has Indigenous has been rising. This could be attributed, at least in part, to the apprenticeship program at GDI.