Leading the way
NWT Apprenticeship program recognized as one of the finest in the country

Scott Crabbe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 04/00) - Boasting double the number of students than the rest of the country, the NWT apprenticeship program continues to be a popular job option for Northerners.

"We feel our apprentices have better rounded training than (others) in the country," said Bryan Johnson, manager of the NWT Apprenticeship and Occupational Certification program.

"When you're living in the North, companies expect you do a bit of everything, rather than one specific job."

Apprenticeship programs allow people to gain work experience on the job while providing necessary theory and proper skills.

Currently there are 42 different trades being offered in the North. In Yellowknife, 92 residents are currently training in fields ranging from construction, mechanics, culinary arts and hairdressing.

"We're trying to get women involved in more non-traditional job-related titles," Johnson said, noting that 90 per cent of the apprenticeship programs are male dominated.

"It's changing a little bit, but it's slow."

Cindy Lane is one of a very few who has assumed a 'non-traditional' role by becoming the only female plumber in the North. Lane is in her second year of a four- year program, and is currently apprenticing at Ray Pirker Plumbing.

"It's not an easy job, it's a man's world, a man's environment," Lane said.

"But hey, it's exciting. If you don't mind hard work and getting dirty,

then have at 'er. I'd love to see more women in the trades."

For every 1,000 Canadians, 10 have received apprenticeship training. In the North, that figure grows to 19 for every 1,000 people.

Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, Jake Ootes, has proclaimed this week (Jan. 31 to Feb. 6) as Apprenticeship Week and has encouraged citizens to recognize the contribution that apprentices and trades people make to the Northern economy.

Throughout the week members of the apprenticeship program have been touring various schools and educating the public on the benefits of apprenticeship programs.

"Most programs run for four years," Johnson said.

"About 80 per cent of the time is spent on the job site and 20 per cent on theory."

Classroom theory may be provided in Yellowknife depending on the course. If not, students may have to re-locate (temporarily) to Manitoba, Alberta, New Brunswick or British Columbia. Travel options are offered for those who require further training outside the territory.

"The majority of students will get laid off and go on unemployment insurance to help cover costs," Johnson said.

"The territorial government might also kick in money for travel."

The cost of apprenticeship programs depends on the amount of courses offered. Within the plumbing program, for example, there are four eight-week courses in the classroom to complete, with each course costing the student about $400, about an eighth of the total cost for the apprenticeship.

New programs are being added every year, opening more and more opportunities to all who have the will to learn and the need to earn.