DELTA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Delta Thursday (Jan. 8) to announce an apprentice loan program aimed at getting more young people into trades.
The PM made the announcement at BCIT’s Annacis Island vocational campus, where Harper, standing in front of a large group of truck mechanic students, noted the country needs many more skilled tradespersons if infrastructure projects are to be built and the economy is to grow.
“Apprenticeships play an important role in Canada’s postsecondary education system and are a key provider of the vital skills and knowledge necessary to power and grow the Canadian economy,” he said.
“The Canada Apprentice Loan initiative will allow young people from across the country to access jobs in the skilled trades that are in-demand in different sectors and regions – from shipbuilding in the east, to mining in the north, to oil and gas projects in the west.”
The expansion of the student loan program, part of the government’s Economic Action Plan 2014, will provide access to interest-free loans. The loans will help apprentices address the costs they encounter during technical training, including educational fees, tools and equipment, living expenses and forgone wages.
It will be managed by the Canada Student Loans Program, within Employment and Social Development Canada.
It is estimated that at least 26,000 apprentices a year will benefit from more than $100 million in loans.
Some of those on hand for Thursday’s event included Delta-Richmond East MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay, who said Delta is a vital link in the national economy.
Members of Surrey Board of Trade were present at the announcement.
“This will enhance the much needed support for skilled trades training, ensuring our industries and resource sectors have the skilled labour that they need,” said Anita Huberman, CEO of Surrey Board of Trade.
“If Canada is to successfully tackle its skills gap and ensure its economic growth, we have to give special attention to the largest cohort of labour force entrants each year: young people. There is a growing understanding that closing the skills gap means better aligning our education and training systems to our labour market needs. The Canada Apprentice Loan Program is an important ingredient in the overall recipe.”
Canada is falling short in addressing the current and future skills requirements of the workplace, she added.
Apprentices registered in a Red Seal trade apprenticeship will be able to apply for loans of up to $4,000 per period of technical training. The loans are interest-free until after loan recipients complete or leave their apprenticeship-training program, for up to a maximum of six years.
Those interested in applying for the Canada Apprentice Loan can do so through the website Canada. ca/apprentice.