MRO Magazine

Only half of apprentices complete program, says new study (November 30, 2005)

Ottawa, ON -- About one-half of the individuals who registered in some form of apprenticeship program in 1992 in On...

Human Resources

November 30, 2005
By MRO Magazine

Ottawa, ON — About one-half of the individuals who registered in some form of apprenticeship program in 1992 in Ontario, Alberta and New Brunswick had actually completed training a decade later in the trade they had chosen, according to a new pilot study by Statistics Canada.

Depending on the province, a small minority, between 5% and 12% of the apprentices who started their program in 1992, were still in training by 2002. Some of these, however, had completed their 1992 trade and were learning a new trade.

Overall, between 46% and 51% of apprentices interrupted their studies at some point, and about one-tenth of the apprentices who interrupted their studies eventually completed the program.

The pilot study was established to examine completion rates among these registered apprentices. The issue is important because there is growing concern about potential shortages in various trades across the country and the relatively low completion rate for some apprenticeship programs.


The study traced the path of a group of about 14,000 apprentices who registered in 1992 8,300 in Ontario, 4,800 in Alberta and 900 in New Brunswick. The total represented about half of all individuals who registered as an apprentice in 1992.

Although the report does not analyze reasons for non-completion, further research may be able to measure the effect of employment opportunities, costs of the apprenticeship training, a lack of journeymen available for training apprentices, family reasons and union jurisdictional roles.

Just over 900 people started new apprenticeship training in 1992 in New Brunswick. The most common trades were carpenter, construction electrician, automotive service technician, cook and plumber/gasfitter.

After the 11-year period, 452 individuals, or slightly over one-half of the total, had completed a trade. Six out of 10 completers received their certificate within the expected duration of the apprenticeship.

Of the 451 individuals who dropped out, 88% never returned to training, the highest proportion of the three provinces. This finding highlights the challenge of retaining apprentices.

The highest dropout rate among New Brunswick apprentices occurred in building construction trades. Some 93 of 133 individuals enrolled as carpenters failed to complete their course, a rate of about 70%. Other trades with high dropout rates were cooks, and truck and transport mechanics.

More than 8,300 people registered in apprenticeship programs in Ontario in 1992. Nine out of 10 were men and more than one-third were aged 20 to 24, the age group with the largest number of apprentices.

The most common trades were automotive service technician, construction electrician, carpenter, cook, hair stylist and industrial electrician.

After 11 years, Ontario had a lower completion rate than the two other provinces. Just over 3,900 individuals, or about 47% of the total, obtained their certificate.

Among the main trades, those that had a completion rate above the national average included construction electricians, plumbers and gasfitters, and industrial mechanics. Carpenters and cooks had a fairly low completion rate.

More than one-third of the people who registered as apprentices in 1992 were still continuing their program after six years. After 11 years, 12% were still participating.

In addition, about 83% of these people who were participating were still in the same trade, the highest proportion among the three provinces.

Not surprisingly, many of the apprentices in Alberta were in trades related to the oil industry.

More than 4,800 individuals started a new apprenticeship program in 1992 in Alberta, only 14% of them women. However, this was the highest proportion of women registered as apprentices in the three provinces. The vast majority of these women were enrolled in programs in food and trade services. Just over one-third of apprentices were aged 20 to 24, the age group with the largest number of apprentices.

Popular trades were construction electrician, carpenter, welder, automotive service technician, heavy duty equipment mechanic technician, and plumber and gasfitter.

Of the 4,800 apprentices, some 2,850 or 59% completed their program, the highest proportion of the three provinces. Completion rates were highest in hairdressing, industrial mechanics and heavy duty equipment mechanics.

Alberta has only about 10% of Canada’s population, but it trains more than 20% of the nation’s apprentices, and it is a net importer of skilled workers. This is likely a reflection of demand generated by the oil patch. However, it may also be an indication of the organization of the province’s apprenticeship programs.

Eight out of 10 of the province’s completers finished the trade they had started in 1992 without interruption. Moreover, of the 2,255 individuals who dropped out, about one-quarter returned.

Only about 15% of individuals who registered as apprentices in 1992 were still continuing their program after six years, and only 5% after 11 years. These lower proportions are likely the result of high numbers of apprentices who finished their programs more quickly, and the number in short programs, such as hairdressing.

The report Registered Apprentices: The Class of 1992, a Decade Later (81-595-MIE2005035, free) is now available online from From the Our products and services page under Browse our Internet products, choose Free, then Education.