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Nova Scotia unveils actions to accelerate skilled trades growth

October 31, 2023 | By Anthony Capkun

October 31, 2023 – The Government of Nova Scotia says it will accelerate growth in the skilled trades and modernize the entire apprenticeship and trades qualification system.

“Nova Scotia is a growing province, and we need even more skilled trades workers to build our homes, hospitals, roads, and other infrastructure projects important to Nova Scotians,” said Premier Tim Houston. “We are willing to make bold decisions and substantial changes to the status quo to become the skilled trades leader in Canada.”

“Our industry wants to build homes and housing as fast as possible for Nova Scotians, but we simply need more skilled people to do it,” said Crystal Ingram, Canadian Home Builders’ Association (Nova Scotia). “This new stream and actions will expedite these builds and we are very pleased to see it come to fruition.”

Actions announced by the premier aim to add up to 5000 more apprentices to the system over the next three years, increase the number of journeymen and trades qualifiers by 1000 a year, and increase the retention rate of apprentices from 43% to 60% within five years.


“While the number of apprentices in Nova Scotia continues to grow each year, the labour market need for skilled trades professionals is outpacing our ability to train them,” said Jill Balser, Minister of Labour, Skills and Immigration. “We are working with our partners to develop creative, innovative solutions to meet their needs and become a skilled trades leader in Canada.”

From left: Duncan Williams, president & CEO, Construction Association of Nova Scotia; Premier Tim Houston; Jill Balser, Minister of Labour, Skills and Immigration; Jill Provoe, vice-president, Academic and Equity, Nova Scotia Community College; Trent Soholt, chair, Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency. Source: Communications Nova Scotia.

The province is changing journeyman-to-apprentice ratios to increase the number of apprentices training on jobsites, and launching a new targeted immigration stream, both of which will help more people enter Nova Scotia’s skilled trades workforce faster, says the government.

The standard ratio is being increased from 1:2 apprentices to 1:3 apprentices in most trades. The province will exclude final-level apprentices from ratios across all trades.

The Critical Construction Worker Pilot—a new stream of Nova Scotia’s Provincial Nominee Program—includes 21 in-demand occupations in the construction sector, largely focused on the residential building trades. It will broaden the pool of skilled workers companies need, and recognize industry experience for these occupations. It will not require a high school diploma (which other streams do).

The actions also include:

• Launching targeted recruitment strategies to make it easier to enter the skilled trades.
• Building programs, incentives, and personalized supports to enter the skilled trades.
• Putting individualized learning programs in place to support retention.
• Building capacity to mentor and train more apprentices.
• Implementing faster skilled trades training at both the pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship stages.
• Changing the way government connects and responds to industry.

“With our current population growth, housing of all forms is needed,” said Duncan Williams, Construction Association of Nova Scotia. “CANS is pleased to see the province take action to reduce the skilled trades shortage in Nova Scotia.”

The province says these actions will cost about $100 million over three years.

This work builds on previous initiatives to attract, train, and retain more skilled tradespeople, says the government, including the More Opportunity for Skilled Trades tax rebate program, marketing efforts, and immigration streams.

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