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The Manitoba government has announced a new apprenticeship ratio, reducing the number of apprentices that can be assigned to a journeyperson from 2:1 to 1:1. This change has raised concerns among stakeholders, including the Winnipeg Construction Association (WCA) president Ron Hambley, who believes the existing workforce shortage will only worsen with the new ratio. Hambley also anticipates layoffs in industries that rely on higher numbers of apprentices, as the new ratio will limit the number of apprentices that can be employed by a company.

The WCA reports that 65 percent of its members will be forced to let apprentices go due to the new apprenticeship ratio. One of these companies facing potential layoffs is PowerTec Electric Inc. President Daniel Hartley expressed concern about the impacts of the ratio change, stating that the company may have to lay off apprentices or be unable to hire the apprentices needed for their work. Hartley mentioned that they currently employ about 30 apprentices, slightly over the 1:1 ratio, and are in the process of hiring more apprentices to meet their work demands.

Despite the concerns raised by stakeholders, Jamie Moses, the minister of economic development, investment, trade, and natural resources, emphasized the government’s commitment to growing skilled trades in Manitoba. Moses mentioned that investments in training seats will continue to support the growth of the workforce in the skilled trades industry. However, Hartley voiced his disappointment in the reduction of apprenticeship ratios, citing the impact on existing programs that have facilitated hiring apprentices in recent years and describing the change as limiting opportunities for newcomers to the trade.

Hartley and Hambley share concerns about the aging workforce in the construction industry, highlighting the challenge of replacing retiring workers with limited opportunities for apprenticeship. Hartley also pointed out that a reduction in the ratio could lead to increased costs for homeowners, as maintaining a 2:1 ratio allows for efficient training while keeping costs down. With the impact of interest rate hikes and material inflation already affecting builders, the additional increase in labor costs due to the new ratio may further strain the industry.

Stakeholders are waiting to see the full impact of the apprenticeship ratio change, as layoffs and challenges in workforce development are expected in various industries. The future of skilled trades in Manitoba remains uncertain as the government continues to support growth in the industry through investments in training seats. However, concerns about the ability to attract and retain new talent in the skilled trades sector persist, particularly as efforts to increase apprenticeship opportunities face setbacks with the revised ratio.

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