NOVA SCOTIA HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Funding for Trades
Appointments to Agencies, Boards and Commissions
Printed and Published by Nova Scotia Hansard Reporting Services
STANDING COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RESOURCES
Mr. Ben Jessome (Chairman)
Ms. Suzanne Lohnes-Croft (Vice-Chairman)
Mr. Chuck Porter
Mr. Bill Horne
Ms. Rafah DiCostanzo
Hon. Pat Dunn
Ms. Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin
Hon. David Wilson
Ms. Claudia Chender
[Ms. Claudia Chender was replaced by Ms. Susan Leblanc]
Ms. Judy Kavanagh
Legislative Committee Clerk
Mr. Gordon Hebb
Chief Legislative Counsel
Department of Labour and Advanced Education
Mr. Duff Montgomerie - Deputy Minister
Ms. Elizabeth Mills - Senior Executive Director, Skills and Learning
Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency
Ms. Marjorie Davison - Chief Executive Officer
HALIFAX, TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2017
STANDING COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RESOURCES
Mr. Ben Jessome
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Good morning everyone and welcome to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. My name is Ben Jessome, MLA for Hammonds Plains-Lucasville, and I will be your chairman and master of ceremonies for this morning’s meeting.
In addition to reviewing ABC appointments, we will be receiving a presentation from the Department of Labour and Advanced Education and the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency with respect to funding for trades here in Nova Scotia.
I will, at this point in time, ask the members to introduce themselves.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. A quick reminder to folks, please put your phones on silent. The washrooms are just out the doors, to your left, and if the building is on fire please get out on the Granville side.
MR. CHUCK PORTER: Maybe before we get started, during our last meeting we deferred a topic that the PC caucus had brought forward and I assured them that we would go back and further discuss that and bring it forward at this meeting. If it’s okay with the committee, I would make a recommendation on that, if that’s appropriate at this time. I didn’t see it on the agenda so that’s why I’m asking, just to get it out of the way.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That’s wonderful. Does anybody want to submit comments towards that, or can we, with consent, move to approve that agenda item and have the committee clerk schedule it?
MR. PORTER: Actually, what I wanted to do was recommend that we would support that topic and we would like to bring in with them the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development at the same time, now that the consultation is done to have a full discussion on that and hear from all sides of the sector. We think this is a good topic and if the PC caucus is open to that, we would so move.
MR. CHAIRMAN: There’s a motion on the floor. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
So, moving right along here, we will begin with appointments to agencies, boards and commissions. Do I have any motions from the floor?
MR. PORTER: Mr. Chairman, under the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, for the Sherbrooke Restoration Commission, I move that the appointment of Michael Wilson as a member be approved.
MR. CHAIRMAN: It is so moved. Is there any discussion? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
MR. BILL HORNE: Under the Department of Community Services, for the Board of Examiners of the Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers, I move that the appointments of Justin Adams, Lisandra Naranjo Hernandez, and Funke Salami as members be approved.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is there any discussion on those appointments? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
Moving to the Department of Finance and Treasury Board, Ms. Lohnes-Croft.
MS. SUZANNE LOHNES-CROFT: For the Credit Union Deposit Insurance Corporation of Nova Scotia, I move that the appointments of John Armstrong and Beverley Cooke as members, credit union reps, be approved.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is there any discussion? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
MS. LOHNES-CROFT: For the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, I move that the appointment of David L. Pace as director be approved.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is there any discussion? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
Moving to the Department of Justice, Ms. DiCostanzo.
MS. RAFAH DICOSTANZO: For the Human Rights Commission, I move that the appointments of Karen Armour, Vishal Bhardwaj, Norbert Comeau, and Deepak Prasad as commissioners be approved.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is there any discussion? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
Staying with the Department of Justice, Mr. Porter.
MR. PORTER: For the Law Foundation of Nova Scotia Board of Governors, I move that the appointment of Estelle Theriault as a member be approved.
The motion is carried.
MR. HORNE: For the Legal Aid Commission of Nova Scotia, I move that the appointment of Rosalie Francis as a part-time director be approved.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
Moving to Service Nova Scotia, Ms. Lohnes-Croft.
MS. LOHNES-CROFT: For the Board of Registration of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, I move that the appointment of Adam Tipert as a member be approved.
The motion is carried.
MS. DICOSTANZO: For the Nova Scotia Real Estate Commission, I move that the appointment of Clinton Wilkins as a member be approved.
The motion is carried.
Thank you very much, everyone.
At this point, I just want to mention that our presenter for December’s meeting will not be available to present to the committee. She has suggested a representative in lieu of her absence, and with the committee’s consent, we will nominate the Executive Director of Client Service Delivery, Mr. Steven Feindel, to speak on behalf of the Public Service Commission. Are we good with that?
Perfect. Thank you, folks.
Deputy Montgomerie, I would now like to pass the microphone over to you. Maybe you folks can do some quick introductions before you get started.
MR. DUFF MONTGOMERIE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Again, it’s a privilege to be here. Thank you for the invitation and giving us the opportunity to share with you some of the scenarios around the future of trades here in Nova Scotia.
With me today, to my right, is Marjorie Davison. Marjorie is the CEO of the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency. She is the first CEO of that new agency and, quite frankly, has done some amazing work. Elizabeth Mills, to my left, is the Senior Executive Director for Labour and Advanced Education’s Skills and Learning branch. Elizabeth and our team are responsible for administering over $180 million of federal money that we used to try to promote workforce attachment throughout the province.
I’m very privileged to be deputy of a very diverse department. I have been here before on sandboxes; I have been here on occupational health and safety.
Just to show you how diverse we are, at five o’clock yesterday morning, our labour conciliator, Peter Lloyd, was able to work to create a deal between Acadia faculty and Acadia University administration. (Applause) I did the same thing at five o’clock this morning, trust me, because we were keeping our fingers crossed for the kids to make sure there were no disruptions, and good on both parties to arrive at that settlement.
Any tough questions you have, I know Marjorie and Elizabeth will be pleased to answer them. (Laughter)
First of all, if we can go to the first slide. The genesis of what we’re going to emphasize with all of you today - and when I talk diversity I was listening to all the appointments that you folks are dealing with and you see the diversity across government.
What we do is all about partnerships. In order for us in Nova Scotia to succeed in a small province, it’s really fundamental that we work together. I think as we go through today you’ll see that there is amazing partnership between the private sector, the post-secondary sector - particularly in this case the Nova Scotia Community College and the Apprenticeship Agency - unions that are fundamental for a lot of apprenticeship training and safety work and so on.
One of the key things as we look at the chart up there - and the system influence and inclusiveness are key kinds of areas. Atlantic Canada has recently harmonized 80 per cent of its trades, and it is a model that’s used across the country. Just to show you the kind of work it takes to get four Atlantic Provinces and the partnerships in there of the private sector of each of those trades to work together, to harmonize, to make it easier for employers and folks is really fundamental.
The other thing is, labour market responsiveness. It’s fundamental for us to be aware and knowledgeable of what the status of the labour market is right now and what is needed in the job workforce to serve that particular area, but more importantly, what does it look like in the future? I think as you see as we go through this, labour market information in other scenarios are key areas that we’re really working to try to maximize those opportunities.
With the creation of the Apprenticeship Agency we’re better able to support apprenticeships in achieving their certification through that harmonization work and improve labour mobility, which we’ll talk about briefly as well, and we’ve been a lot more responsive to labour needs with the creation of new direct entry programs and new apprenticeship pathways, which we’ll share with you.
On the next slide, again back to the partnerships. Diversity inclusion is a major focus for us. In the last couple of years, I’m really pleased, of all my time in government, to actually see real efforts being made to bridge the gap from the diversity perspective. You’ll see again as we go through, there is a real focus on that.
Labour mobility is fundamental. Again, Nova Scotia has shown a lot of leadership. Marjorie actually chairs a national committee where we work together to increase labour mobility across the country, let alone within our own province. One of the things through that harmonization scenario that I was talking about, we now have under way, we have employed a company - the four Atlantic Provinces as well as Manitoba - to create an IT system that harmonizes the whole apprenticeship area in Atlantic Canada and in Manitoba. Saskatchewan is looking to join as well.
What does that mean? I was at a business education council meeting the other day with Irving at the table and made them aware of what we’re doing. Irving’s comment was, that will save us thousands of dollars and innumerable time and effort as we move apprentices and workforce people through Atlantic Canada.
Other examples can be like Canadian Tire that has a mechanic they want to move from Halifax to Moncton or whatever. We’re just beginning to see the advantages of how that will make things better for not only employers, but for workers as well.
Part of the other dynamic is - just kind of when you go to work, look around you. You don’t think when you look at all those buildings that are being constructed or you look at the ships that are being constructed at Irving - you look at the Pictou Campus of the community college that’s being expanded. You look at government now looking to move the Marconi Campus to downtown Sydney to help modernize and upbeat the city as well. It can’t be done without workers. It can’t be done without qualified tradespeople.
Again, it’s about the partnerships working with the private sector to make sure we are in a timely manner with the Apprenticeship Agency and the Nova Scotia Community College to make sure the workforce that is needed is around us.
I think we distributed to you a chart. We call it within the department our cheat sheet. It’s really an overview of the ecosystem of trades. I’m not going to take you through it - I’m just going to leave it with you obviously, but it really gives you a very focused dynamic of how we try to link things on a go-forward basis and show that we’re actually maximizing tax dollars as we do it.
The last thing I want to speak to in this slide on the diversity piece, recently $10 million was set aside for us to create a Centre for Employment with the focus on getting workforce attachment for diverse populations. That is a partnership with St. F.X. University and the Nova Scotia Works system across the province. We are in the first throes of beginning to see hires and developing hires in that scenario. Again, it’s just a reminder how our renewed focus and really getting specific things done around diversity helps drive us.
The next one is - I love talking about this story - Irving, two years ago as part of the shipbuilding agreement, developed a program in co-operation with the Nova Scotia Community College, with our department, the Apprenticeship Agency, and with Unifor, the union at the shipyard, to train women welders. I had the privilege of being at the second graduating class of those sets of welders. To walk into that room and see these young women dressed to the 9s in their graduation was amazing because in behind them came the first year graduating class in their welders’ gear. So here you had the women walking in with the welders’ gear from last year and the new women proud to be graduating, with their parents and loved ones and everything there, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
You look at the private sector people who provided tools and so on for those graduates and you look at the union, Unifor, who worked closely with Irving at the shipyard and you look at the Irving management team, they were a little bit leery at first, now they are true believers. As a matter of fact, they are working with us on Aboriginals, a similar type of program for First Nations. So, it’s not hard to talk about the excitement and another great example of partnerships. Think about it - union, Irving, Nova Scotia Community College, the Apprenticeship Agency, and private sector folks - all working together to make that work.
Another success story around Aboriginal youth.
[Video was played.]
MR. MONTGOMERIE: Eldon is a result of partnerships and without a true interaction with the First Nations community, this doesn’t work. A lot of this is cultural and understanding the culture of our First Nations community and how to maximize better opportunities. They have the highest amount of young people in the reserves in the province and for us not to be working closely with them to help achieve success for those young people - but to see success stories like this, it’s really helpful.
Another success story is around our partnership with the Immigrant Settlement Agency of Nova Scotia. When we had a lot of immigrants, particularly Syrians, come to the province, some innovative and imaginative ideas had to happen. With that organization and the Apprenticeship Agency, we’ll just show you a short video of the next one.
[Video was played.]
MR. MONTGOMERIE: I’m pleased to turn it over to Marjorie now to go to the next group of slides.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. Davison.
MS. MARJORIE DAVISON: The next slide is just positioning a little bit about the apprenticeship trade system in Nova Scotia. We do have legislation and, under that legislation, 69 trades are designated. A designated trade is an occupation that has been identified that needs an occupational standard, needs some guidance and training leading to certification. We do have 13 of our trades, which are compulsory certified, which means that they are regulated, so you must either be training as an apprentice or be certified in order to work legally in that trade.
Our primary purpose is really to reach out, work with industry, try to be responsive to the needs of industry, ensure that we have multiple touch points with industry to continue the relevance of the training that’s offered. We currently have about 2,100 employers who are actively involved, training around 6,000 apprentices. Actually, we have about 6,300 currently in our system.
We often think about the skill trades, we think about the apprenticeship system, but there are also a number of other occupations that are trades-like that also do benefit from sort of a practical approach. That work is often carried out in partnership with our Skills and Learning group in the Department of Labour and Advanced Education. We have a number of supports and programs available to help people to experience success as well in these kinds of occupations. If I were to give you an example, like truck driving or fish harvesters - a lot of occupations that are out there are important to our economy and it’s also important to have training and development for them as well.
What we’ve done in this presentation - you have the handout that Deputy Minister Montgomerie just mentioned and I just want to draw your attention to it. What we tried to do in the next couple slides is to help you understand the trades ecosystem, because we often think of apprenticeship and really just that relationship with that apprentice working at the job site, but so much more is needed to encourage, that our young people in our society understand the opportunities in the skill trades, how to have a successful training experience, and then how to benefit from lifelong learning maybe as an entrepreneur in the trades or in order to evolve with the trade as technology changes.
The funding continuum that we’ve provided, looking at trades awareness and attraction, our primary mechanism here is an MOU with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, and there are significant supports through the education system. Although that’s not what we’re necessarily here to talk about today, we do work very much in partnership with them.
You may have heard of the Options and Opportunities program, fondly called the O2 program. There are a number of co-operative education opportunities available to our young people, as well as the skill trades centres. This government has increased the number of skill trade centres recently up to 18, and there is a plan to increase them to 25 by 2020. All of these opportunities are providing our young people with better awareness about the opportunities in the skill trades and some career exploration opportunities so they can actually figure out what it means to work in the skill trades, but also to continue the academic that’s necessary for them to be successful in the skill trades.
In the past, we’ve often thought about separating out vocational training as different and it’s for a certain group that can’t manage the academic world, but the way they approach currently is to make sure there are a lot of on-ramps and off-ramps for all of our young people so as they’re making those career decisions, they have the opportunities to explore those.
What feeds into this as well is the recent transformation of our Careers Nova Scotia centres across the province that Elizabeth may want to speak about later. We’re really trying to take more of a holistic approach and support our young people as we go through.
The other important part about this segment of the ecosystem is helping our society really understand the value of trades. Deputy Minister Montgomerie talked about the benefits of tradespeople to our society, and it’s important that we work with our employers to provide more opportunities for our youth. This is a huge opportunity we have to keep youth in our province, if we can work with employers to provide more apprenticeship opportunities. That’s on the front end.
The middle of the continuum is the actual trades training experience. We work very closely with the community college system. We have a joint stewardship initiative with them that’s governed by our two boards, the board of governors at NSCC and the board for the Apprenticeship Agency. Under that, we give full credit for any pre-apprenticeship that’s taken by a student at the community college. We also have a number of private career colleges that may offer trades training, and we provide credit for that toward their apprenticeship. We try to make it as seamless as possible, despite which way the apprentice may decide to enter the system.
Many employers prefer to hire apprentices direct-entry. That means that they don’t do any pre-college training. They just get hired. The employer takes a chance on them. Usually I hear employers talk about - you can tell the initiative, you can come to the door, they’re looking for a job, they’re looking for that show of initiative, and just that you can demonstrate that you can learn - 50 per cent of our employers prefer to take apprentices that way. That works very well for our rural areas where we may not have a college program that’s available, and it’s also helping keep young people in those communities.
We have a number of supports that are available to support the success of both the apprentices and the employers. I’ll speak a little bit more about those on the next slide.
The third column around skill development is really understanding that just because you have a Red Seal or your certificate of qualification in a trade, your learning does not stop. That is the beginning to be able to work proficiently and independently in a trade. There is a lot of learning that must take place over time. We do try to work well in tandem with our Skills and Learning branch so that any opportunities that may be there to work together to provide entrepreneurship training, what it means to run a business as a tradesperson, to get some extra GAAP training and skills - also, this is where we work with a number of trades practitioners who have never gone through a formal training program.
For instance, we have a program at the East Preston Empowerment Academy where we have identified - it started out as an adult learning program, but a lot of the men coming to the program identified as working in a trade for up to 20 years, but they’d never gone through any training. What we’ve done is work with them to put on a refresher, to identify the trade that they’re in and help them to challenge for Red Seal certification. We are looking to do that across the province. We’ve been out now working with community leaders in the African Nova Scotian community to identify if there are other trades practitioners like that, who perhaps could not afford to go into training or did not have the opportunity for whatever reason.
We’re doing that not only with our African Nova Scotian community but with other diverse groups who are working in the trades, pretty much like our ISANS example, where he had been working for 15 or 20 years in his home country, to find a way for them to get acknowledgement of their skills and to continue their training and get certified.
That is a quick snapshot of the funding continuum. On the next slide, we’ve tried to break down for you where some of those investments are being placed. Because the title of this presentation was “Funding for Trades,” we wanted you to be aware of where the funding in the system is going.
Over time, there has been not a lot of funding from the apprenticeship side with youth programs, and that’s really changed since 2014. Our Premier has been out there talking about how important it is to provide more opportunities for youth. We’ve looked within our own funding envelope to see if we can reallocate funding to support more awareness and more exploratory opportunities for young people. But as well, as I mentioned, there is a significant investment happening in the education system itself.
In terms of trades training, we have a big investment in our Nova Scotia Community College for pre-apprenticeship pre-employment programming. I’ve just given you a snapshot of what that may look like under that column. As well, we provide some funding through our labour market development or transfer agreements to support the college in the delivery of training. In the apprenticeship budget itself, there’s about $6 million allocated annually - $1.5 million coming from the Labour Market Development Agreement to support the actual in-class or online training that our apprentices take. That is the tuition that if you heard about the tuition removal, that is for that type of training, the apprenticeship technical training.
There’s also the One Journey Program where employers across our province identify that there’s a labour market need and we work directly with them to bring participants who have not engaged in the employment system and connect the two. We have some successful programs happening with the motive power sector up in Sydney and the automotive service technician in Truro currently, with a couple more sort of enhanced direct entry programs planned.
You can see the supports there. There is a variety of supports between the federal government and the provincial government. I’d be glad to answer any questions you may have further about that, and as well on the trades practitioner side. We’ve mentioned a couple of those initiatives. I just wanted to give you an idea of where the investment is going and how we are trying to be responsive to the needs of our labour market.
MR. MONTGOMERIE: In conclusion on building successes, for the first time in 30 years Nova Scotia has seen, two years in a row, in-migration of young people. I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, that could change tomorrow, but it is a really positive sign that we are doing things right.
There are three pilots I just want to mention that I think accentuate and it’s all to do with high school students. One is the Construction Association of Nova Scotia does a program called Building Futures for Youth, where they take a large number of high school students, put them in the community college for a week for safety training and then for six to eight weeks attach them to their members to actually work on sites and they pay them. It works for the construction association because they are able to identify potential up and coming, keen and talented young people, and it certainly works for the young people to be able to get that kind of experience. Again, it’s a partnership.
When you look at trying to make sure you match up good labour market information to try to meet needs that are immediate, there are two pilots we do at the schools. One is the Serve It Up! program, which is culinary. There is a shortage of culinary in the province. We’ve been working with TIANS and the tourism sector group to develop a program in co-operation with the school system, again, the Apprenticeship Agency and others, to train young people and get them interested in the culinary piece.
The third program is the TestDrive, automotive. We all know you can actually drive by car dealerships and see signs, “Technicians Needed,” so we’re working very closely, again, with high school students and with the automotive sector to get young people interested in the automotive trade and technician scenario. Again, back to the original theme - partnerships, partnerships, partnerships.
Finally, in closing, I think if you were to look at what we’re most proud of, it’s the relationship we have with our stakeholders. At the end of the day if you try to do things in isolation, it doesn’t work and you create unintended consequences and you really are not maximizing things for the citizens of the province.
On any given day, we can chat with the construction association, Duncan Williams; we can chat with Heather Kavanaugh, head of Merit, who is the non-union group; with Danny Cavanagh, head of Nova Scotia Labour on labour; with Brad Smith on Mainland trades; and Don Bureaux from the community college. We all know each other, we all have different kinds of core mandates, in a way, but when it comes to this we work together. It’s like occupational health and safety; it’s the same dynamic.
We look to them as our early warning system - if we’re off-track or we’re not moving in the right direction, if some of our stakeholders are upset, we listen very closely. If they are thinking that things are not working well, we’ve got to figure out why and then work with them to improve things.
I really thank you for the opportunity to present. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you for those opening remarks. I would remind all members to make an effort to direct their comments and questions through the chair.
Mr. Porter is first on my speakers list.
MR. PORTER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and through you to witnesses, thanks for your presentation. Very good. Obviously, this is a program that’s working. Deputy, as you’ve said, a lot of success stories are out there.
The photo you showed with the young ladies and the group of welders, one of them I know very well. She comes from my constituency - Macey Rolfe. It’s a pretty exciting time for her to go through that program and to be successful and so on.
The other reason this is exceptionally important to me - it’s no secret - is I’m a father with four daughters, each of whom has taken her own path, if you will. Three of those four, however, are still within a school system. One is just graduating from university at Christmastime and looking; one will graduate - I think - from Kingstec in June and is looking; and one is currently in Germany on a Rotary exchange program, who has graduated school and will be coming back and going to university.
My oldest, the fourth, is in Ontario - 13 years. It’s not likely she will be back, given that she’s now married, has a family, et cetera. But she left here those 13 or 14 years ago, looking for employment as a young person who did graduate high school with some help, some pushing. In those days, it was kind of fun.
If I were to ask any of those three daughters - and I’ll use my own girl stuff just as an example - if they were aware of this program, I’m not sure any of them would tell me that they are. Maybe it’s because they’re not focused on the trades. They’re in business. But I would ask you, sir - I know you have been around a long time, and you probably have an answer. I think I read somewhere you worked for Joe Howe. (Laughter)
MR. MONTGOMERIE: I wrote his stuff.
MR. CHAIRMAN: No badgering the witness, please.
MR. PORTER: All joking aside, through you, Mr. Chairman,
to the witness, I know the universities go out throughout the course of the
year as the students are graduating Grade 12 and so on, and everybody is trying
to sell their universities to the young people,
come here for this reason, whatever it might be. I know NSCC is involved in that. They hold an open house at their location throughout the year. I have been to those.
From a department perspective, though, are we reaching out somehow? I’ll just ask this question. There’s a list of graduates that you would be familiar with. So many hundreds of kids are graduating Nova Scotia schools every year. Are we sending them something to say, hey, this is an opportunity? Better yet, are we doing it in Grades 9, 10, 11, and 12?
Kids aren’t making up their mind in June of Grade 12 (Interruption) Some kids may. But I think for the most part, these young people are trying to figure out in those high school years, what is my direction? They’re setting their course load. What do I need to go to this or go to that?
It’s a long question, but I’m sure you can handle it.
MR. MONTGOMERIE: It’s interesting, I was at an international education conference here in Halifax, our post-secondary. The keynote speaker was Chantal Hébert, who is, I think, one of the best columnists in Canada on the political front.
Why do I tell you this? She talked about how there is no one good place for young people and parents to go for good labour information. She made that comment. One of the things we undertook, and Marjorie referenced it briefly, is we blew up Careers Nova Scotia and have created Nova Scotia Works.
The underlying part of that is, working with our colleagues in the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, we know that guidance counsellors are no longer guidance counsellors. I don’t mean that as a negative at all. They’re in a different world of social issues and concerns that they’re at the forefront of.
We are currently having a major digital scenario of developing that kind of easy-to-go-to place where you can go for labour market information, career information, what jobs are available in the province, and what the qualifications you need are. There are only two places - I think South Carolina is one - that have a really comprehensive one where it’s easier to go.
To the honourable member’s point, the other thing is that I’m privileged in that I travel and I’m on post-secondary campuses and community college campuses and in businesses, and I hear all the good stuff. You’re right, we don’t.
Of course, for young people, you’re the silver bullet when you’re young. You know everything and so on, and trying to educate both parents and so on is a bit of a challenge.
The post-secondary world of universities is more of a young person going to university. A lot of them don’t know what they want. I tell them, don’t worry about that. Don’t worry about that.
I have four children. One of them wanted to be a physiotherapist, one of them wanted to be a teacher, and that happened. Another one graduated with computer science from Acadia in honours and became an actor. Go figure. The other one went to a private community college after six years to get a degree and now works for Oracle in Florida. There is no magic formula for young people. But the honourable member is right - we’ve got to do a better job of making not only young people but people within the system aware of opportunities and particularly where we’ve not done a good job is around trades. That’s why the value of the Apprenticeship Agency and the work they’ve been doing, they’ve really upped our game in making awareness of that. A long answer to your question.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We’ll return to Mr. Porter for a supplementary.
MR. PORTER : A quick follow-up through you, Mr. Chairman. You mentioned about the influx and growth of Nova Scotian students staying, people staying here and working. We have a huge international population, as you well know, who come to this province every year, not only to universities and trades schools, but in our high school population. I’ll just mention my own, in the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board, I think just in my catchment area there are 40 international students here, which is common, and there are many more throughout the province. Are we reaching out to those young people?
I don’t know what the jurisdictional issues are but I do know that a lot of them return here. I know one young man who is on his third year of high school here and his plan is to go to Dal. He is going to stay in Nova Scotia and work. He’s a smart kid; he’s probably reaching out, researching everything.
I just wonder, along with us reaching out to our own, is there something set aside in a program or a combination whereby we are reaching the international population? Obviously, our goal is to support the immigration programs to grow our population and have people working. I’m curious about that.
MR. MONTGOMERIE: Yes, there’s definitely dynamics to that. I mean the school program which the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development runs in agreement with other countries, which is amazing, that brings those kinds of exchange students, but 10 universities have 7,000 international students on their campus at any given time. The kind of story we tell, the good news is we have 10 universities, the bad news is we have sort of 10 universities in a population of under one million.
They have really upped their game around international students and they are ahead of the curve with the rest of the country - although the rest of the country is starting to figure it out.
We just developed a program called Study and Stay and it won an international award - the award was presented in London, England - where we’ve worked with China, India, and the Philippines to target 50 young people whom we would follow for four years. They came to Nova Scotia a year ago and they spent a day down in Cornwallis working together and we’ve tracked them for a year. I think something like 50 per cent of them already have an attachment to a company.
At the end of the day with Study and Stay, we want to keep 85 per cent of those. We’re beginning to see that this could get a lot larger. The Philippines is already saying to us, we’ll send you 200 because those kids know that once they are here, they are going to be mentored and they are going to be with other students. They are from different universities so we’ll bring them together - I’m not quite sure of the date, like every three months or something like that.
The Connector Program, the greater Halifax Partnership and now we’re doing with the Cape Breton Partnership and we’re doing with the Western RENs is another good example where again it’s a partnership, where the private sector will step up and attach themselves to an international student and help mentor them, et cetera. What the companies have found, what they always find when they attach themselves to students, they gain from them. Those are some of the dynamics that we’re working.
The other thing is we have innovation tables with the post-secondary side and with government departments and with ACOA. One of those tables is around experiential learning. They have done several - I call them “trade shows” - where they bring young students together with the private sector. I attended one in Halifax about a month ago. The guest speaker was the gentleman who runs the company out of the Valley. The drug company has done amazing scenarios - I apologize, I can’t remember his name. He just talked to the value as a business person, of attaching themselves to young people out of the post-secondary system. There is that kind of energy out there. Again, private sector, without them it doesn’t work.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. We’ll now cross the table to the PC caucus with Mr. Dunn.
HON. PAT DUNN: Mr. Chairman, just to follow up on a few comments from the member for Hants West with regard to the school system, I can’t speak for the last few years, but going back 30 before that, I felt very strongly that the guidance counsellors in our schools were putting their emphases and their time pushing students to university as opposed to other types of job training facilities like Nova Scotia Community College and trade schools and so on.
I often thought that we need our guidance counsellors - and you made reference to how their role is changing now drastically, but perhaps we need someone in the guidance counsellor’s office whose job it is to educate the staff and students with regard to all the opportunities out there in trades and so on because I’ve always found most of our students certainly were not aware of those opportunities that are out there and the great need for it.
My question is very different from what I was just talking about. I just want to follow up with the member for Hants West. When I look back in Pictou County - we have had a couple of major industries that are closed - Maritime Steel for example and the Trenton rail car plant, formerly known as the windmill Korean plant, DSME. Just recently, Sobeys were 100-plus employees. I’m wondering, is your department engaging with Sobeys at the present time with regard to helping those employees? I know that Sobeys have a program, they have support systems to go forward to help them if they want to go to community college or venture into their own entrepreneurial. My question is, is there any engagement between your department and Sobeys?
MR. MONTGOMERIE: Any time a business closes we’re automatically engaged with that company and with those workers to help maximize opportunities for them as they go through those very challenging times. Because of that, we get to know companies pretty good. We get to know the good, the bad, and the ugly. The companies that truly have to restructure and they know they’ve got to restructure, but at the same time show respect for their employees. I’m going to ask Elizabeth to speak to the Sobeys one in a second, but I’ll tell you an example that I’m not really happy about and that’s Sears, to be very blunt. We knew right away that was a different dynamic, but maybe Elizabeth can speak to Sobeys.
MS. ELIZABETH MILLS: As Duff indicated, we have a process in place wherein when the minister receives a letter from an employer indicating that they are reducing their staff by a certain number, it automatically triggers this process, so we reach out to the management of the organization. We have reached out to Sobeys. We’ve had discussions with the management there and we work with the affected employees. With our partnership with Sobeys we convene meetings with those employees and we also work with Service Canada, so Service Canada attends those meetings.
At the time of the meetings we provide information on how to access EI benefits, if they’re eligible, and then we talk about the breadth of programs that are available for retraining if that’s needed, or to help with attachment to other employers.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Moving to the New Democratic caucus with Mr. Wilson.
HON. DAVID WILSON: I have to begin with the deputy who opened a door around Acadia University, so I do have to ask a couple of questions around there and then I can get into some of the other areas.
I wonder if you could give us a little bit more - I guess it’s a tentative agreement. Did they actually vote on it? Maybe just a little bit more on that. Second to that, what role does your department have with the students? Students, especially at this time of year are cramming for midterms, doing projects. A loss of a week would really disrupt that, so I’m just wondering - a little more update on exactly what the situation is today, and secondly, what role would your department play with the students? Put aside the negotiation team, the union - but the students themselves who often feel like they don’t know where to turn.
MR. MONTGOMERIE: Thank you for the question. A lot of Nova Scotians don’t realize the Department of Labour and Advanced Education has several trained conciliators. I call them the boys and girls in the attic. They have a 95 per cent success rate and at any given time they’re dealing with 40 interactions and disputes. Acadia was one of those examples where we began working with both parties several months ago. We work hard, as a department, to be Switzerland. We do not work to side with any side on this, even though we have post-secondary as a responsibility. Our conciliators have to be neutral and they have to gain the trust of those parties in order to try to get to an agreement.
On the flip side of that, the relationship with the students, which we absolutely value, from a post-secondary side, we meet with the student leadership and the universities on a regular basis. The minister sits down four times a year with all of them around a table. The Acadia leadership - I just want to take this opportunity to commend the Acadia student union for their absolute exceptional leadership. They reached out to us early on and we put them in touch with our lead negotiator, Jarrod Baboushkin. What Jarrod took them through is how a labour negotiation works. He didn’t say that Acadia is right; the faculty is right. He said, here’s how it works, we work hard to get parties, et cetera.
If you followed the public announcements of those student leaders, they stayed neutral, too, but boy, were they sweating bullets, as we were. Let’s face it, you don’t want to see kids lose a term.
They have come to what is called a tentative agreement, and what we would normally say, as Department of Labour and Advanced Education, we now would await the outcome of the faculty vote and we would await the outcome of the board of governors as they look to ratify. Any further questions you may have, you should direct to those parties. We’ll just wait to see if they’re successful. I hope that answers your question.
MR. DAVID WILSON: Thank you for that. And for full disclosure, the last two weeks I’ve been trying to encourage my daughter to continue to study at Acadia. I told her that the best negotiation happens at the eleventh hour. She did send me a text yesterday morning saying, you were right, Dad. A couple of her roommates didn’t take my advice and are scrambling today to try to write a midterm.
Are there any other universities in that position that you are aware of? Acadia was the one that was outstanding.
MR. MONTGOMERIE: I may have to check on that for you. There are none that have required our services from a conciliation perspective. I think there’s a couple that are - you know, you have 10 universities, so I’m sure some of them are in the labour negotiations, whether it’s faculty or maintenance or clerical or whatever.
MR. DAVID WILSON: I have more questions, but I’m more than happy to let it go around.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. Lohnes-Croft.
MS. LOHNES-CROFT: You mentioned about career planning - I remember taking a program called parents as career navigators when my eldest son was in high school. Does that program still exist?
MR. MONTGOMERIE: I might look to my colleagues in the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. I’m not sure.
MS. MILLS: The program still exists. It is called Parents as Career Coaches.
MS. LOHNES-CROFT: I’m just wondering - obviously it doesn’t now, I realize, lie in your department, but is there a way of expanding that program? I think the big issue was that you had to take it at the big high school where the children go after they leave junior high. The turnout wasn’t always that great - a higher turnout for people who live closer in that area, but I’m thinking about the parents in more rural areas, for whom travelling after hours to a school was not conducive to being well-attended and participating. You had more people who were from the town area.
How do we reach out to parents in rural Nova Scotia to get them involved? Or is there an online version or something?
MS. MILLS: Yes, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is really looking at that program and looking at what the uptake is from parents. They’ve also introduced a new program. I think it’s called myBlueprint pathway. It’s for children and parents to look at the labour market information that’s available. This is online. It’s a very exciting program, and I think Duff has had a preview of that. We have had a preview of it as well.
Labour and Advanced Education is working with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. We’re looking to add a resource at each of our Nova Scotia Works centres where there would be, in essence, guidance counsellors who would work out of those centres around the province to assist parents and young people in their career planning.
Finally, the last area that Duff referred to earlier is about our Nova Scotia Works digital centre. We’re in the process of looking at setting up a system that would be a digital platform for all of the programs and services that are currently available through our Nova Scotia Works centre. You wouldn’t have to go physically to a Nova Scotia Works centre but you could access all of those services. We’re in the process now of developing that concept. We have looked at other jurisdictions like North Carolina and other areas that have successfully developed those systems.
What’s really important about the digital platform is that it is mainly going to be focused on youth and parents. So, it will have a different look and feel than any other type of platform that we normally offer through our Nova Scotia Works centre because it will specifically speak to parents and children.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Moving to the PC caucus, Ms. Smith-McCrossin.
MS. ELIZABETH SMITH-MCCROSSIN: It’s an interesting topic, and I just happened to spend two hours with Brad Smith last week, so it’s very timely. Interestingly, the next day I got an email from a young man in Cumberland contacting me. He is very down and out; he had done a trade, but unfortunately couldn’t find a placement to do enough apprentice hours and asked me for some advice. I did direct him to Brad, but I’m not sure if any of you would have any other suggestions for me.
Tying in with that question are the concerns of rural Nova Scotia. I want to encourage you to always take into consideration rural Nova Scotia when you’re making your plans. Recently I found out about a program that an employer was really interested in. It was for hairstylist apprenticeship. This company had been looking for hairstylists for over three years. Nova Scotia Works, which I want to add is excellent in Amherst - great workers there - had referred to this new apprenticeship program but, unfortunately, it’s only available in Halifax. This employer was quite disappointed, so please just take that into consideration.
I do have one other question, but do you have any other comments about what I should have recommended to that young man who is having trouble?
MR. MONTGOMERIE: I’m from Bridgetown and I have a strong understanding and sense of rural areas and making sure that we stay connected, so I thank you. I’m going to ask Marjorie to give you a better background on the apprenticeship.
MS. DAVISON: We will be glad to speak with him as well. Although we’re not an employment agency, we do often try to give guidance to students who have gone to a college program and they are having difficulty finding an employer position. That’s why it’s so important that the work we’re doing as an agency is around trying to engage more employers to provide these opportunities for young people. Only about 20 per cent of employers who could actually train apprentices do. It’s so important for us to get out there - and our staff have targets of reaching unengaged employers. We have grown the number of new employers in our system by 38 per cent last year. It’s going to take time.
In the interim, what we do is, I would arrange for this young man to meet with our training consultant and help him understand the apprenticeship system. We often look in our system to see where we have some good employers, and we try sometimes to make contact in that way. We can certainly try to assess.
On the hairstylist one if I may, it’s a pilot. It seems to have gotten out of the bag before we ever had a chance to even run it as a pilot. The hairstylist trade in Nova Scotia, currently training is available through a school approach. They can still go to a private career college and some college campuses offer that training. Most employers are taking students out of those programs.
We have identified - we’re one of the few jurisdictions that does not have an apprenticeship pathway. We also know we have people who are mobile. We have communities that are not served well in rural areas - particularly we’re looking at our African Nova Scotian community that needs support to be trained and certified in a different form of hairstyling, so we have worked with the Cosmetology Association of Nova Scotia to put a pilot in place. We do not have the pilot under way yet. We’ve really just been building the program, trying to reach out to employers. The pilot will be partially online and also there will be four weeks of class time.
If the employer is very interested, I’m sure we could speak to the employer. I don’t think it would be a hardship to participate in the pilot. There are supports for the apprentice when they travel. There are EI supports that supplement the wages and also provide child care or travel or living allowance if that’s needed. We also have supports to the employers. Again, I would be glad to have one of my staff reach out directly to that employer.
If the pilot goes well we may be looking at working in partnership with our college and/or private career colleges to make it more accessible across the province.
MS. SMITH-MCCROSSIN: Thank you so much. I appreciate your support, and keeping in mind a lot of the problems exist in rural because there are no schools or colleges in close proximity. Only having the apprenticeship training option available in the city kind of doesn’t meet that need, so thank you for that.
In preparing to become a candidate as an MLA I did a lot of studying of Cumberland County - and this ties in with your department. There was a report released in 2014 that showed Cumberland County had one of the highest rates of unemployment in the province. However, it also had the highest rate of - of those unemployed were the highest educated, which I found really interesting. Educated was defined as having some sort of post-secondary diploma or degree.
What it led to - I was part of an organization called Cumberland Business Connector, which is similar to a REN but smaller, and it’s business-led, private sector-led. Part of their mandate is looking at this problem - that we’re not educating based on the needs and the demands of the private sector.
Our new CEO of Cumberland Business Connector, Jonathan McClelland, is currently working with private industry to say, how can we be communicating with the Department of Labour and Advanced Education to make sure they understand our needs? For example, the Pugwash salt mine - they said for 10 years now there is a huge demand for heavy duty mechanics in that industry, but they can’t find enough.
My question is, what can we do to better make sure that we’re educating our students based on the demands of the business and private sector community? Is it possible to do a needs assessment on the labour market in a place like Cumberland? Could the Department of Labour and Advanced Education provide someone to come up and do an assessment of the demands of the labour market in communities or counties such as Cumberland so that then proper planning could be done?
MR. MONTGOMERIE: There are a couple of dynamics to the question. I recall when I was first at the Department of Labour and Advanced Education I met with Valerie Payne from the chamber of commerce to talk about the value of co-op, post-secondary, and all that kind of stuff and how you make connections. She looked at me said, dealing with university is like dealing with government. If you don’t know what door to go through it can be pretty intimidating. By the way, since then the chamber now has a co-op award program and others. What happened? We connected.
We would welcome connecting with Jonathan and others. Please feel free to have him reach out. We have a couple of dynamics. We have Elizabeth’s team. We have my team in post-secondary - the community college system and others. Of course, if Pugwash is seeing that kind of shortage - if we’re not aware of it, we should be aware of it, and how we can work with them and we can - to meet those kinds of labour needs.
When I say I’m from a rural community - Halifax doesn’t know that rural community, but if you have leaders in that community who are confident and know their community and are looking for help, that helps us because then we know we’re on the right.
Labour market information, one of the things I learned real quick, one of the most effective national tables I’ve been part of since my Joe Howe days, I’ve been to, I don’t know, 60 federal-provincial ministers’ conferences and so on, but the one we have with the federal government in this mandate is one of the best tables I’ve ever seen, where the federal bureaucracy and the political side are united with the provinces around workforce attachment.
Why do I tell you that? They just recently agreed to create a National Labour Market Information Centre. It’s in Ottawa and it’s getting under way. The trickle down of that is we have our own economists in Labour, Finance has their own economists. We’ve worked together on labour market information to even know what’s happening in Cumberland. Part of it is even looking at the unemployment data.
When temporary foreign workers was an issue we would drill down and look at who is unemployed and how do we match up potential job opportunities with the unemployed? A long answer to the question, but your point on labour market information is absolutely bang on. It’s really good information drives good decisions. The better information we can get, but a welcome for Jonathan to reach out to us, for sure.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Moving to - I guess with the consent of the committee we will allow a third question from Ms. Smith-McCrossin.
MS. SMITH-MCCROSSIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is more just to wrap up. I just want to clarify, I am here on behalf of all our PC caucus, not just representing Cumberland, but that’s what I know and I know a lot of things that we’re experiencing in Cumberland are experienced throughout rural Nova Scotia.
I think that having some of the work done that I’ve brought forth, what we need to change is the culture we have in rural Nova Scotia - and our kids are told this in high school - that to be successful you need to leave Nova Scotia. Overall that’s the attitude and the culture that we want to certainly change in Cumberland. We have amazing private sector industry there but our kids don’t know that. They don’t know you can be an engineer working at Oxford Frozen Foods. We need to do a better job of making that information available to our high school students. I’ll finish on that comment.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Moving to Mr. Wilson from the NDP.
MR. DAVID WILSON: Just to get in a few questions around the skilled trades and definitely how important it is to expose young students to those trades, in hopes of maybe directing them or assisting them in making decisions on what course or what paths they should take.
The skilled trades program, you indicated there’s 18 currently offered for Grades 10 and 11 around the province and there’s hope to go to 25, so adding another seven. Have those sites or locations been identified? If not, how are they going to be identified? Who is going to help make that decision? Is it something that’s going to be engagement with communities, especially rural communities? Or is it as simple as the government minister, Cabinet, making that decision?
MR. MONTGOMERIE: Good information drives good decisions and I’m hoping that Cabinet will be looking for good information to help drive a good decision.
I look to Marjorie for her thoughts on where this may head down.
MS. DAVISON: The skilled trades centres to date, I do have the information of where they all exist that we could provide to committee. I actually cannot tell you what’s happening in terms of the new centres. I believe there is a big partnership with schools, the schools apply. There’s a number of discussions that take place to make sure that that is the right location. Also, not just to have a skilled trades centre but to determine what the emphasis will be of that centre.
Some of the skilled trades centres are focused on construction. They are trying to grow the number that are focused on sort of the industrial manufacturing sector and also on the motive power sector.
I will mention, too, that outside of the skilled trades centres, some high schools still have like an automotive lab or they have other assets that have developed through their boards and those are very much in use as well.
MR. DAVID WILSON: Yes, we would appreciate it if you could provide us with all those locations. I hope the deputy pushes that with the government. Those decisions should be driven by the community needs and the student needs, not a political need.
The 69 designated trades, there are a number of pieces of legislation that work to try to make sure that is implemented. With the changes we have seen over the last five or six years around trying to have labour mobility with other provinces, is there any need for improvement or updating the current legislation? Is there anything that the department is trying to make sure happens in the next session? We could be an ally in making sure that the minister brings those changes or improvements forward. I would assume there should be some, but I’ll let the deputy maybe have a comment on that.
MR. MONTGOMERIE: We’re presently in discussion with the apprenticeship agency on some potential legislation. It would be inappropriate for me to comment. That’s at our level and with our minister. It has to go to another level, as I’m sure you’re aware.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Moving back across the floor to Ms. DiCostanzo.
MS. DICOSTANZO: Mine is more of a comment rather than a question. I had an opportunity to work for NSCC a couple of years ago. I was a medical interpreter for 20 years. We had a trade, but we had a problem teaching it or passing it on. The Department of Justice hired NSCC to develop a pilot program for online training for court interpreters. I had applied, but my fear was that I had done this job for 20 years, but I had never been a teacher. It was an amazing experience, how well the instructional designers and the curriculum writers taught me to think of what I do and change it into written training.
There was also an opportunity for me to learn online training. One of my students was in Nepal taking the course, and one was in Toronto. The course that we developed, they called it blended, I believe, because 15 per cent of it was at the college, and the rest was people outside. We did the course in 10 different languages, and my students all had full-time jobs and were doing this course on the side. It was an amazing experience, how well these instructional designers in that department worked with me and with those students to finish that program. Our program was incredible. The students will tell you that.
When I went back to try to re-offer it, NSCC would not take it on themselves because for them what’s important is market. We didn’t have enough need for interpreters to run the program on a yearly basis, so they advised me to come back in a couple of years and see if there is demand. They really work on what’s in demand. Everything that you talked about, NSCC is following.
I have been a major advocate with the new refugees to push them to NSCC. At least 100 times to every family that I could speak to, I said how impressed I was with NSCC and how much better an aspect it is for your kids to get them a job and to work here.
I’m just going to say how impressed I am. When I first came to Canada in 1984, NSCC was so small. It was nothing, and nobody knew about it. I have travelled to different parts of Nova Scotia, and I’m really impressed at how NSCC has developed over the last 10, 15 years and how much they’re reaching to the labour market. That’s my experience.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Deputy, would you like to respond to that?
MR. MONTGOMERIE: I thank the honourable member for the comments. The community college is a gem. The system is an absolute gem. It is nimble, it is imaginative, and it’s innovative - all the things that you would want that system to be.
To give you an example - and I know Mr. Wilson will be interested in this - post-traumatic stress, which is a serious issue. We asked the community college to run a course with first responders to take them through the dynamic of understanding post-traumatic stress. It just finished up. It was at the Coast Guard campus in Cape Breton. That’s just another example where they took this niche kind of area that needed some help and guidance, and all the feedback I’ve been getting from the people who were in the course is that it was an amazing experience. I thank you for your comments.
MR. CHAIRMAN: A supplementary to Ms. DiCostanzo.
MS. DICOSTANZO: I actually just heard about this program and it’s preventive rather than waiting until it happens and then we treat it, this is preventing people from having PTSD. In my job as an interpreter, we witness a lot of that, so I would love to have offered it to our members as well.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Dunn.
MR. DUNN: My question is surrounding the needs of the labour market. I guess the question would go like this, are you satisfied with how quick our school system can adjust to make the available seats to meet the needs?
MR. MONTGOMERIE: Our school system?
MR. DUNN: Yes, is your department satisfied with how quick the school can adjust to make the seats or the places in the school system available to meet the needs of the labour market?
MR. MONTGOMERIE: When you say school system, you mean the community college?
MR. DUNN: Yes.
MR. MONTGOMERIE: You are never totally satisfied and we keep our ear to the ground about when we hear rumblings that maybe a course isn’t relevant and so on, we really look hard at it. One of the things that we’ve worked hard at with Marjorie’s support and Don Bureaux’s support is that the Apprenticeship Agency and the Nova Scotia Community College work really very closely together to make sure that things are as timely as they can be.
I had an example where the Department of Health and Wellness came to us two years ago and said, our medical lab technicians’ retirement rate has just gone up dramatically. It went quicker than they even projected and we’re going to be short of medical technicians in two years. In the community college - this was in July - by the first of September they added 14 seats. That meant 14 jobs for 14 people two years out.
Can we get better at it? Yes. In my world and all the stuff that we’re responsible for, you pay attention to email, you pay attention to the negative, like who is calling, who is upset. I have to tell you, I don’t hear a lot. I hear a lot of people coming and saying you should be trying this and we sit down with them and they go okay, I hear a lot about that, so we work together, but I don’t hear a lot of - how can I put it? - anger or disappointment.
MR. DUNN: Just another question. Again, this question is dealing with high school students. Is there any projected date when the province will have skilled trades courses available to all high school students across the province?
MR. MONTGOMERIE: The best way for me to answer that, that’s the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. I don’t mean to be trite, I mean that it is the Department of Education. We work very closely with them but I think the announcement to add to the dynamic is a really positive sign, very positive.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much and please excuse my delayed introduction of Ms. Leblanc, who joined us at the commencement of the meeting. She would like to ask a question.
MS. SUSAN LEBLANC: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I am sorry for being late, which is why you didn’t introduce me, because I wasn’t here.
I’d like to ask a couple of questions related to diversity and, in particular, gender diversity. I guess my first question would be, based on your presentation - and I thank you for your excellent presentation - about at the third slide you mentioned you were doing a lot of work with diversity and inclusion. I was just wondering how you define diversity. Is that including gender diversity or it racial and cultural diversity? What does it mean exactly?
MR. MONTGOMERIE: It’s all of those - racial, gender, disability, it’s all of those.
MS. LEBLANC: I’m going to then look at gender diversity in particular. I’m wondering if you’re doing - and I also appreciate the pictures of the female welding program. As a side note, you don’t have to answer this yet because you can just answer this in your regular answer, but I’m wondering how those classes are doing. Are they still employed? Are they enjoying their employment? Are they feeling that they have an equal footing in that trade?
I’m wondering if you’re doing any gender-based analysis around the new apprenticeship training funding program. If you have been, what are the findings in terms of applicants? If not, how come you haven’t been doing gender-based analyses? That’s my first question.
MR. MONTGOMERIE: The picture behind those female welders, the story behind that, is the changing of a culture. I’m going to tell you, changing a culture in a dockyard scenario has its challenges, and there were challenges in that. They were forerunners, those women. But again, with the support of the union, support of management at Irving, they’re behind the culture change. That’s the kind of model I think the honourable member is talking about, that you have to work. There are different dynamics of gender in the workforce. That one was a radical one of 10 welders in a very male-dominated trade scenario.
I said earlier that I would refer any tough questions to Marjorie and Elizabeth. The second part of your question, I’m going to channel over to Marjorie.
MS. DAVISON: Over a year ago, we did launch an inaugural diversity and inclusion framework. It was developed by Janet Rhymes, who also developed the Raising the Bar framework for the Public Service Commission. We went out and met with all our equity-seeking groups across the province and came up with a plan that we could jointly support which looks at our accountability and our ability as an agency to demonstrate that we are considering diversity inclusion through everything that we do, not just the people who we’re serving, as well as leveraging partnerships so that we can effect change.
One of the major partnerships that we have is an MOU with Women Unlimited. This is the group that provided the 14-week preparation course for the shipbuilding. They do that on a regular basis. They offer it in partnership with Skills and Learning funding that Elizabeth provides.
We hosted our inaugural women-in-trades symposium last March, which the honourable member here was able to provide some remarks to. We are trying to learn more about what our female apprentices are experiencing, what is attracting them, what’s keeping them, and what’s pushing them out of the trades.
We do have a very small participation rate of female apprentices. It’s abysmal. It’s not even small - it’s abysmal, although we have been able to grow it, and we are growing it in more non-traditional areas, so we are having some success.
We have a number of partnerships. Techsploration - I don’t know if you’re familiar with this - is a program for Grade 9 girls exposing them to opportunities in skilled trades and technologies. They just had their annual launch last Friday. This is a program that gets out to our younger grades of females to help them, connect them with role models, and help them learn about all those opportunities.
We partner with Skills Canada - Nova Scotia to make sure they’re out in the schools. They put on workshops just for female students to talk about opportunities in the skilled trades and also what it means to be a female coming into some of these non-traditional occupations.
With our MOU with Women Unlimited, we partnered with Status of Women, and we have been identified as one of the 150 projects that Status of Women is funding across the country to improve gender parity and equality. That project will look at the supports that we can provide to our female apprentices across the spectrum of apprenticeship as well as providing a more formal network.
The women at Irving, it’s a great opportunity - it’s a difficult workplace. With Women Unlimited, we are working to make sure that they have the supports that they need. The first group is hired. The second group is still in training. But they’re successfully hired, and they’re working. We will be watching them and trying to provide that coaching from the side as necessary.
It is very much on our radar. We do have it in our plan to do gender-based analyses on all of our policies, our procedures, and our processes with all of our clients. We have begun that process, and we are working with Women Unlimited to provide us with that level of expertise that we need to do that effectively.
MS. LEBLANC: May I ask one more?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Please do.
MS. LEBLANC: This is my only shot. Thank you for that answer.
I just wanted to ask a question around some of the labour force needs in classically or traditionally female areas, for instance, things like skilled health and social care areas - so ECEs, home care providers, personal care workers, medical technicians, those kinds of jobs. We hear a lot about there being shortages in these areas. Especially with the rollout of the pre-Primary program, we’re running into problems with ECEs. Also in hospitals - we hear about hospital closures and emergency room closures. It’s not always because the clinical staff can’t be there but because there are no lab technicians available or people to run the tests. I’m wondering, is the department doing anything to encourage more entrants into those training fields?
MR. MONTGOMERIE: I’ll try to look for help from my colleagues. I know we’re really wired into the health system for the job needs, and I think all the courses are full. I’m way up here with that.
Again, it’s making sure, as you mentioned, that we’re targeted to the marketplace so that we’re not just educating kids who are out there suddenly looking for jobs that aren’t there. I think the attachment rate of the community college graduate into the workforce is something like 88 per cent. Elizabeth or Marjorie might be able to add to the honourable member’s question.
MS. MILLS: The college also identifies labour market information. When individuals are planning to attend college, we look at what the likelihood of them finding employment in their community will be. If they’re EI eligible, then they could be eligible for what we call Skills Development funding through our Labour Market Development Agreement. That’s about $26 million that we allocate each year to students. A large number of those students are, in fact, studying in the health care sector.
We do have a program called One Journey. Duff mentioned that already. That’s a $2 million program, mostly funded currently through our Canada Job Fund agreement. That’s mostly for individuals who are not EI eligible. It’s one journey, meaning we’re helping them to develop and increase their education levels and their essential skills levels, then specific training in a field, and then attachment to the labour market. We work closely in partnership with our sector councils on that initiative.
A significant number of the students who go through One Journey are young, under 30. Many of them are on income assistance. Many of them are single moms. Many of them go into CCA programs. We have a 76 per cent success rate in that program because, just like apprenticeship, the employer is at the centre. The employer is already lined up to hire the successful students who complete. It’s a pathway right to employment.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Moving to Mr. Horne.
MR. HORNE: It has been a wonderful morning to listen to what’s happening in our communities all across Nova Scotia to improve apprenticeship programs and improve the lot of a lot of students and get them started.
Similar to what Ms. Leblanc was asking, questions about gendered people and unrepresented groups in our community, I did attend a mainland trades open house this Spring. There were not a lot of people there, but the students who were doing the apprenticeships - I learned that there are a lot of employers that were providing jobs and apprenticeship programs. I thought everything had to go through NSCC. So, I’ve learned a little bit on that.
I met a number of female students who were doing apprenticeships in welding, for sure. They also got me all dressed up in pink and took pictures of me, so it was kind of interesting. I hope that type of program will continue and be enhanced over the next few years until we get a larger number, not miniscule numbers. I just wanted a little comment there on how you’re going down the road to try to encourage more of them into the men’s trades, as they were normally called.
MS. DAVISON: It is a challenge. We know that young girls in schools have already put trades out of their minds at a very young age. Even from Grade 6, they’ve already decided that the trades are not going to be part of their future, so we have a bit of work to do. I think we do need to do more work in the early grades. We have a couple of partners who have approached us about perhaps some partnerships, so we are getting out.
I don’t know if you were at Mainland Building Trades. I don’t know if any of you have ever attended the Trades Exhibition Hall. It is set up by the Construction Sector Council and with Mainland Building Trades. There are 14 different trades that are profiled. You go in and you can do some simulations. There’s a journeyperson there to help you learn what the trade entails. There’s a lot of interest - can we take something like that more on the road, with the younger grades, so they can start to experience what it is to work in a trade?
Also, our school system is working to embed sort of career knowledge, not just through a high school credit program. They’re trying to embed it across the curriculum. We are working very closely with them to make sure that the trades get the profile as well there.
In terms of working with women specifically, we need to do a lot of work with our employers. Employers who have successfully hired women will tell you they are some of the best employees they have ever hired because they make great tradespeople, great attention to detail, cleaning, and that. They add a great dimension to that workplace. A lot of employers aren’t convinced yet, and even our female owner-operators aren’t always convinced. That is work we need to do.
It comes down to this whole idea of respectful workplaces. I know it’s a program in government - it’s mandatory. But it’s not something that is out there with the small and medium-size operators across the province, so we’re trying to find a way to meet employers where they are, not wanting to blame employers. We need to figure out a way to do that and to support them to have females and diverse individuals in their workplace.
MR. HORNE: First a comment. I would like to say the young female apprentices showed a lot of enthusiasm for what they were doing. I will be going back next year and probably the next year and the next year because I believe they demonstrated very well the importance of young people getting involved early in the apprenticeship program.
My next question would be, where do you see under-represented people and the province working together to enhance the apprenticeship program? What programs do you see that will do that, that may not have been tried yet? What do you see down the road in the next five, 10 years?
MS. DAVISON: This is really front of mind for us because our mandate as an agency is to steward and operate a relevant, accessible, responsive system for employers, but it is also in our mandate to increase the participation of women and under-represented groups. I think we’re probably the only apprenticeship agency in the country that has that as part of their actual mandate statement, so this is important for us to figure out.
We are working in the First Nations community. We have an advisory committee that is made up of all of the relevant Aboriginal organizations in the province. We have an active action plan with that group. We do conferences with the front-line workers to help them understand what apprenticeship is and how to work with their residents who might be interested. We are developing success stories. You saw one of them today. We did that so we could get them out to the communities so people could begin to see the role models that are there.
We also have joint registration agreements with a number of our First Nations communities. These are agreements that, instead of the agreement being at the employer-apprentice level, it is with the First Nations community, and they oversee the apprenticeship. They can then more easily transfer apprentices to different employers and help them sort of navigate along to get the employment opportunities they need. We have a lot going on with the First Nations communities, and we are seeing increases in that.
We’re also working very diligently with our African Nova Scotian community, and we’ve been partnering with the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs. Together we’ve gone out and completed eight community sessions. We identified community leaders. We wanted to start with the leaders in the community and we met with them about apprenticeship and what the opportunities are, and we’ve listened to them about what they’re hearing and what they desire for their community. Then they are working with us to set up broader community sessions where we’re actually inviting young people interested to hear about it.
The awareness is really important because in many cases with under-represented groups, the societal value is on universities and college education first. The societal value has not been on the trades and so they have actually seen it as a last resort, and that when you push trades towards them it’s not taken. It has been negative - trying to put that in a diplomatic way - because they feel that you’re not offering them the best opportunity. We’re trying to change that understanding and trying to help.
Our society sees apprenticeship as an equal post-secondary opportunity. In fact, it builds on a college certificate or diploma and takes you even further, so it’s even beyond that. If we can work together to really increase how our society views it, I think that will actually improve the overall outcomes that we see in reaching our under-represented populations.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Moving to Ms. Smith-McCrossin.
MS. SMITH-MCCROSSIN: I wasn’t sure if I could ask this question, but since you asked yours I’m going to venture there. We all know there is kind of the perfect storm happening in the Province of Nova Scotia around our physician shortage and physician needs. Some of the factors we have like the federal proposed tax changes, we have 132 physicians in Nova Scotia right now that are over the age of 70, for example - 46 are family physicians.
The Department of Labour and Advanced Education has the skill set of understanding labour force market needs. Would you or your department work with the Department of Health and Wellness to identify the needs and develop a plan or strategy to sort of reduce the damage that’s sort of coming our way? I say that in all honesty - not to be controversial or put you on the spot, but your department does have that skill set. Maybe you are working together already. I’m curious about that.
MR. MONTGOMERIE: In my other life, I was on the Health file for several years, and quite aware of the challenges in the health professions in recruitment. There are a couple of dynamics at play here. We also have post-secondary - Dalhousie Medical School, et cetera.
For example, several years ago around nursing, working with our Department of Health and Wellness colleagues we identified for the next decade we will need nurses. As a result, we began dialogue with the three nursing schools in Nova Scotia: CBU, St. F.X., and Dalhousie. It took a year and a half, and the universities along with the Department of Health and Wellness and my team developed a partnership around nursing that is the finest in the country.
The curriculum is almost the same and you can move between one university and another. I know our Department of Health and Wellness colleagues are working incredibly close with Dalhousie Medical School - and I make an assumption with Doctors Nova Scotia - those are the key people that the department would be working with to understand the dynamic behind the challenge of recruiting physicians.
That is a very specialist area, and the best people in that dynamic would be the Department of Health and Wellness, Nova Scotia Health Authority, Doctors Nova Scotia, and the Dalhousie Medical School. Those are the key players to best understand that.
MS. SMITH-MCCROSSIN: Thank you for that answer. I understand some of those relationships are not going really well right now. I’ll wrap this up, but has your department ever worked with the Department of Health and Wellness specifically? I don’t know if they actually even understand the labour market needs around the province. Right now, there is - and I know no one likes to use the word “crisis” so I’ll find another word, but right now there is kind of an impending doom - like a real difficult situation that we’re heading into when you look at the college licensing changes for foreign physicians, the federal post-tax changes, the retiring age of many of our physicians, it’s all kind of coming together and there is an urgent need.
I’ll just plant that seed that maybe there’s a role for the Department of Labour and Advanced Education to lend your expertise to the Department of Health and Wellness in this area.
MR. MONTGOMERIE: Actually, we work with the Department of Health and Wellness. I have a saying I use with my team. We have, as a core responsibility, post-secondary and labour, our respective departments are what I call the subject matter experts. For example, right now with the Department of Health and Wellness we have a partnership with the Workers’ Compensation Board, the Department of Health and Wellness, and our department on safety issues in the workplace, that we’ve got eight working committees involving private sector, the department, and so on. The medical technicians I referred to, that was a partnership, the nursing I referred to, but this particular case the key players I think are the ones who are engaged now.
We’re engaged in a way from the post-secondary with our relationship with the Dalhousie Medical School, but at the same time it’s the Health Authority and the department and Doctors Nova Scotia that have to identify the key dynamics and then you look at players like Dalhousie and others and what role they can play or what role government may want to play on a go-forward basis and incentive and so on, and that’s a different dynamic.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Ms. Leblanc.
MS. LEBLANC: I wanted to ask a little bit about the decision to eliminate the tuition fees for the apprentice program. I was at the announcement in Burnside because it’s my riding and didn’t really know what I was going to hear. Imagine my surprise when there was this big announcement about tuition fees being eliminated. I was very excited, very happy that the department was going in that direction.
I was wondering about that decision, when did the department or the Apprenticeship Agency sort of come to that decision? What were the decisions that went into going in that direction? What kind of impact does the department believe that the decision to eliminate those fees will ultimately have on enrolment in the trades?
MR. MONTGOMERIE: There’s a couple of dynamics and I’ll stay at 50,000 feet, I think the honourable member will understand why. On an annual basis, we will go to Treasury Board, indicating if there were funds available. These are areas that we would recommend align with government priorities and it is key - align with government priorities.
At the end of the year when surplus money became available, a decision was made on several fronts. Research Nova Scotia, for example, was created, $25 million. The diversity program at St. F.X., $10 million and free tuition. Those are things that we had advocated if there were funds that we think would advance government priorities and make a difference.
With the permission of the Chair, I’d look to Marjorie to sort of give more of a detailed answer.
MS. DAVISON: I think the removal of tuition is a very cost-effective way to address the financial burden that apprentices experience when they are in an apprenticeship system because most participants in college and university are young, coming right out of high school. They don’t have the cost an adult has, in terms of paying for a house, trying to provide for their family.
An apprentice, the average age is 29 years old and they generally do have families, do have mortgages, car payments, and they are training while they are working, so in order to access the training, they actually have to leave work. Although they can go on EI and they can get EI benefits, it’s still a big barrier for apprentices completing.
I think it’s trying to identify all of those barriers that are there that apprentices experience and how we remove those so that we can effect a more timely completion of their training so they can achieve certification. What we hope that will do is increase not only those to complete more timely, but to actually come into training.
In any given year, while we have over 6,000 active apprentices, we might have 37 per cent, maybe 40 per cent, come into actual technical training in that year.
We’re hoping this will be an incentive for them to work with their employer. You can understand the challenge for the employer, too, if they’re really busy and they’ve registered for training, but now they’re too busy to let the apprentice go - so any way that we can reduce the barriers that they’re experiencing to support time and completion.
MS. LEBLANC: I was going to ask then why only eliminate the fees for apprentices in the technical training, but I think you’ve kind of addressed that - although I wonder, given your answer, deputy minister, is there a scenario in which if there was money available you would say that in terms of the answer you gave about aligning with government priorities where you would advocate for eliminating tuition fees at Nova Scotia Community College across the board, given the success of many of the programs and how successful the system is?
MR. MONTGOMERIE: Part of the dynamic of particularly post-secondary and the community college, which Marjorie certainly outlined the difference by the challenges you’re seeing there - actually our student assistance program is pretty robust, but it’s in the context of if you graduate after four or five years, your Nova Scotia loan is forgiven. It’s a pretty good program, but it’s an incent program.
Some provinces do a fair amount up front. In this case, we don’t charge the student interest and if they graduate after four or five years - we’ve extended to five now, taking that into account - the Nova Scotia portion of the loan is forgiven. I think it amounts to $40,000 or more. Don’t hold me to that because I’ve been away from that a little bit.
The community college - only about 15 per cent or so take student loans. The community college has recently launched an incredibly impressive program with the private sector. Their target is $25 million, and they’ve raised $19 million. Recently Sobeys committed $7.5 million. What happens is, students that are in need that are coming to the community college, that money is used to pay their tuition.
Michelin, for example, targets 20 scholarships. This is how the community college is pretty smart in how they do this. Some companies will say we’ll give 20, 30 or whatever scholarships, and that helps with that. Suffice to say in meeting with the students on a regular basis, we’re very aware of their challenges and concerns. At the same time, if you look closely at university budgets, you’ll see a good sizeable amount is set aside for students in need on top of student assistance that we provide on top of the student bursary that we provide. Is it perfect? No, but we think we’ve reached a reasonable balance, given the fiscal ability of the province to make sure there is reasonably good support.
The last comment I’ll make - any time a Crown Corporation can raise $19 million from the private sector, I think is a strong sign of faith from that private sector that they believe that what that organization is doing for our young people is a pretty positive dynamic.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Wilson, for a brief question so we have time to allow the presenters to wrap up.
MR. DAVID WILSON: I would be remiss if I didn’t take my opportunity while I have the deputy in front of me to ask a quick question around recent legislation passed in the Legislature around presumptive coverage for PTSD. I know it’s not on the topic, but I’ll ask it anyway.
I wonder if the deputy could give me reassurance and commit to making sure that when the regulations are created that it’s not done just in silos within the department - that you seek outside input on those because the majority of the details of that legislation will be in the regulations. Could the deputy commit to that today?
MR. MONTGOMERIE: Without hesitation. From the minister on down, we know how difficult a challenge this is and unintended consequences of any piece of legislation - two things you shouldn’t watch being made, sausages and legislation. The regulation part, the honourable member is absolutely correct. We know the responsibility is on us that we can add people to that coverage by regulation. We did that on purpose, because if the evidence and the facts become available, that makes it the right thing to do. But certainly, hold my feet to the fire that we will be consulting with the key organizations.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you everyone. I now invite the deputy to make some closing remarks.
MR. MONTGOMERIE: I want to thank the committee for the opportunity. It struck me as I was listening to Marjorie talking about diversity that I need to indicate that within the department, Marjorie was head of our corporate policy group. In there, she was a champion for diversity. As a matter of fact, our department has one of the best diversity groups, I think, and now she’s carrying that passion over to the Apprenticeship Agency.
Elizabeth’s passion, particularly for the immigration side, for really working hard to make sure people get a fair opportunity is reflective of the amazing team I have at that department. They are absolutely committed to making things better for Nova Scotians, and they are all good listeners. To be a good public servant in this province, you need to be a good listener, and you need to engage people who even disagree with you. There’s lots of disagreements between labour and others with government. But at the same time, there’s lots of amazing things where we work together, on occupational health and safety, on trades, and so on.
I close with, it’s all about partnerships. You minimize the unintended consequences and the bad decisions by making sure you establish a relationship of respect with the people you’re meant to serve.
I thank you for the opportunity.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, deputy. Ms. Davison or Ms. Mills, would you like to add any closing remarks?
MS. DAVISON: I would just say thank you again for putting trades on the forefront. It isn’t often that we get that opportunity to speak about what’s happening within our trades environment. I do hope that in all of your own constituencies, you will promote apprenticeship and trade certification. Thank you very much.
MS. MILLS: I just want to say thank you very much for allowing us to appear before you today.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think I speak for the committee when I say thank you for the work that you do on behalf of all Nova Scotians, and best of luck in your future endeavours. Thank you for being here today, folks.
As some pre-emptive housekeeping - I’m not trying to drop anything on anybody, but I would appreciate the opportunity to ask some questions at our next committee meeting, which is on the topic of youth retention in the Public Service. Our vice-chairman will be absent from said meeting, so with the consent of the committee, I would invite Mr. Porter to take on the role of chairman for that meeting in December, if we have the consent of the committee to do it.
MR. PORTER: I might have done that once before - thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I just told him about it five minutes ago.
Thank you everyone. This meeting is - oh, we have one final question. Ms. Smith-McCrossin.
MS. SMITH-MCCROSSIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I didn’t realize we were going to wrap up that quickly.
I just had a question as Health Critic for HR. When can we anticipate that we will be presenting board members for the IWK? I know that there have been vacancies for the government positions for the IWK board for a couple of years - I don’t have the exact date. I’m just wondering if there’s any anticipation of when we can expect those appointments.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you for the question. It’s certainly in everyone’s best interests to try to fill those positions as quickly as possible. That being said, the committee has no indication that that is happening. Like I said, I’m sure that there’s an effort being made to do that, but at this point in time I can’t be specific on what sort of a timeline we’re looking at.
MS. SMITH-MCCROSSIN: Who makes that decision, and how would we be able to find out as the HR Committee?
MR. CHAIRMAN: That question would be best suited for the minister’s office.
MS. SMITH-MCCROSSIN: Okay. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is there any further business or commentary from the committee?
Seeing none, this meeting is adjourned. Thank you.
[The committee adjourned at 11:54 a.m.]