British Columbia

B.C. bringing back mandatory certification for trades workers

British Columbia is launching a mandatory trades certification system the government claims will support higher paying and more stable jobs for workers.

Certification program cancelled in 2003, B.C. is only province not requiring tradespeople to be certified

Electrical work is one of the sectors identified as a priority in the new trades certification program rolled out by the B.C. government. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

British Columbia is launching a mandatory trades certification system the government claims will support higher paying and more stable jobs for workers.

The new program will fill a gap left by the cancellation of a former mandatory certification system in 2003. Every other province in Canada requires tradespeople to be certified.

"Similar to a post-secondary degree, a certified trades worker has a certification that is recognized by employers just like teachers, lab techs, nurses and other certified workers," said Anne Kang, the minister of advanced education and skills training.

"By recognizing the worker's skill, we will attract more people into careers in the trades in order to help address labour shortages across a variety of trades."

Currently, thousands of skilled trades workers in the province have no certification to recognize their skills. As a result, they are often paid less and have less regular work. 

The government says the program will also help address the perception problem that trades work is less desirable than other jobs and lower in prestige.   

B.C.'s labour market outlook forecasts a looming wave of retirement with 38,000 workers in the construction sector alone retiring in the next eight years. It predicts there will be 73,000 trades job openings by 2029.

The new program will require workers to either be a certified journeyperson or a registered apprentice. It will be phased in starting with the following 10 trades which were chosen, in part,  because of existing high demand for workers:

  • Electrician.
  • Industrial electrician.
  • Powerline electrician.
  • Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic.
  • Gas fitter.
  • Steamfitter and pipefitter.
  • Sheet metal worker.
  • Heavy duty equipment technician.
  • Automotive technician.
  • Autobody and collision technician.

Once a trade has been designated for certification, individuals will have at least one year to either register as an apprentice or challenge an exam to certify as a journeyperson.

Premier John Horgan called the announcement "transformative" in helping the province rebound post-pandemic. 

"Tradespeople are building British Columbia and we need to value that work. We need to encourage younger people to enter the trades and we need to return tradespeople to the place where they can have family supporting jobs because of certification," he said.

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