A student tries his hand at virtual welding as others watch his progress on a video monitor at a Red Deer College Career Expo. (Advocate file photo by Jeff Stokoe)

Unemployed trades apprentices can apply for $1,000 grant

Money could help students, including those at Red Deer College

Unemployed apprentices in Alberta are getting a boost from the provincial government to help them complete their technical training.

Joel Gingrich, dean of Trades and Technologies at Red Deer College (RDC), said Monday’s announcement of $1 million — an extension of a $1.5 million program the province commenced last year — will give apprentices some support so they can attend training while they are not working.

The Apprentice Training Award will provide a $1,000 grant for up to 1,000 unemployed apprentices attending their second, third or fourth period of technical training. There are eligibility requirements, such as being unemployed in the trade for at least 30 consecutive days immediately prior to the start of the technical training.

Eleven public colleges and technical institutes, including RDC, provide trades training in Alberta. RDC has 15 skilled trade apprenticeships, ranging from automotive service technician to welder.

Gingrich said an apprentice who is already in the system and committed to a particular trade can use current down time to upgrade their skills, something that will have a long-term benefit.

Generally, enrolment in apprenticeship programs follows the economy — as it slows down, schools tend to see fewer apprentices in training, and it picks up, they see apprentices coming back, he said.

Under the apprenticeship model, 20 per cent of the training happens with a training provider like RDC, and 80 per cent with the employer. So when apprentices aren’t working with an employer, or are working in tighter situations, it makes it tougher for them to take that break to go to school, Gingrich said.

Over the last couple of years, about 3,400 trades apprentices have attended RDC each year, Gingrich said. Historically welder, electrician and heavy equipment technician are among the most popular programs.

Looking ahead, the college is hoping to offer earth loop technician apprentice training in a few years. The emerging alternative energy technology involves geothermal systems.

RDC will be the only college at first to offer it. Provincial legislation surrounding pre-qualifications and training is expected to come into effect next year, Gingrich said.

Apprentices interested in the latest grant should log into their MyTradesecrets account to make sure their information is up to date, and there will be a notice on the homepage of the account.

barr@bprda.wpengine.com

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