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CAF warns of potential digital gap in skilled trades

March 27, 2013 | By Anthony Capkun

March 27, 2013 – The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF-FCA) concludes technology is having a profound impact on the nature of the skilled trades, apprenticeship training and journeyperson skills requirements.

Based on a series of interviews with employers and trainers, a CAF report suggests computer literacy is increasingly a prerequisite of employment, meaning a digital gap will become as important as the literacy gap over the next decade.

“The Impact of Technology on Apprenticeship” shares insights into the challenges identified by apprenticeship stakeholders, including a lack of policy framework and the increasing reliance on online learning programs developed in the States, which often overlook Canadian standards, such as Red Seal.

“It is clear that digital skills will have a big impact on worker and workplace productivity,” said Sarah Watts-Rynard, CAF executive director. “The introduction of increasingly high-tech equipment and machinery requires skilled tradespeople to have competencies well beyond hands-on mechanical skills. We are also seeing the learning environment itself changing, requiring apprentices to interact with technology as part of their training process.”


The report notes the emergence of online learning, 3-D technology and simulation as an integrated part of apprenticeship technical training. Journeypersons also rely on technology on worksites. In construction and manufacturing trades, skilled tradespeople often use tablets and mobile devices to call up schematics, codes and work orders.

“We have heard for decades that technology can help workers be safer, faster and more accurate,” said Watts-Rynard, “but it’s important to remember that technology requires another facet to the learning process and it doesn’t always come automatically, even to younger workers: technical upgrades require skills upgrades.”

The non-profit Canadian Apprenticeship Forum aims to connect Canada’s apprenticeship community. Participants work to support “vibrant and innovative” apprenticeship systems and policies with a view to developing a highly skilled, inclusive and mobile skilled trades workforce.

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