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Merit Alberta Watches As Union Builds Welding Training Centre

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In the most recent move, Edmonton-based Local 488 of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the U.S. and Canada is constructing a centre that will train welding apprentices.

The 20,000 square foot, two-storey facility, which will be called the APTC Welding School, will open in fall 2015 on the union’s nine-acre campus.

Line Porfon, vice president of government relations of Merit Contractors Association in Alberta said the association has been monitoring the growth of such non-public apprenticeship training centres and their attempts to get provincial government funding.

“The government was tasked by the provincial Minister of Finance to complete a review of the apprenticeship system, including its delivery,” she said.

“Since Alberta already has an effective system now, our official stance is that we support a review, but not any proposed changes to training delivery.”

Porfon said Merit Alberta supports maintaining the neutrality of the current apprenticeship delivery model and continuing to support apprenticeship training through publicly funded and community supported colleges and training institutes.

At the same time, the association opposes diverting operating funds from publicly funded policies, and what it calls politicizing the delivery of apprenticeship training by introducing training matters relating to unionization.

Porfon said a major reason why the province’s construction industry supports apprenticeships to the extent it does is because the system is seen to be neutral. “There would be significant push-back, especially from the 80 per cent of non-building trade union contractors, on changes to the system that would result in worker bias,” she said. “Without the support of industry, the apprenticeship system could implode.”

APTC director of education Bill Wilson said the organization has not made a formal application to the Alberta government for funding for apprenticeship training, although it has asked informally many times.

“We’ve supplied the bricks and mortar, and the infrastructure,” he said. “Now, we’d like financing towards operating expenses.”

Wilson said the APTC has been “working to find a way to fit into the educational system.” Unlike a public college, which provide training in many subjects, from brick laying to hair styling, we provide training in pipefitting, plumbing and welding only,” he said.

Wilson said that although the APTC and the government haven’t come to an agreement yet, they’re still talking to each other.

“We’re not at odds,” he said.

Wilson said the three-classroom facility will replace a mobile training unit. “Registration begins in May,” he said. “We’re hoping that about 200 welding apprentices will sign up.”

The welding training centre will join the Alberta Pipe Trades College, which trains plumbing and pipefitting apprentices. Wilson said the college, which has been providing extra training to journeymen and journeywomen for many years, began training apprentices in 2009, when the college received Government of Alberta accreditation.

“We had been operating out of two facilities,” he said. “In 2009, we consolidated everything into a new 55, 000 square foot, three-storey 14-classroom centre on the same site as the union hall.”

Wilson said the centre trains 100-150 apprentices per year. “We would like to train more in the future, too,” he added.

The APTC offers the same curriculum as the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and the other publicly funded institutions in the province that train apprentices.

“We charge the same as them, but our facilities are newer and class size is smaller,” Wilson said.

The college is open to both union and non-union members.

In addition to the plumbers, the Alberta carpenters have a training centre for apprentices in Edmonton. The main training centre of the Alberta Carpenters Training Centre, which is affiliated with the  Alberta/NWT Regional Council of Carpenters and Allied Workers, has been training carpentry apprentices since 2009.

“We train about 40 apprentices per year,” said director of training and apprenticeship Len Bryden.

The 38,000 square foot, two storey facility has seven classrooms.

“Our training programs are open to union and non-union apprentices,” Bryden said. “But apprentices, who belong to the union, can get reimbursed for the cost of their tuition”

Bryden said the centre has had informal chats with “different government people” about getting public funding, but so far without success. “But we’ll keep trying,” he said. “We’re not giving up.”

 

This post was originally published here: Merit Alberta Watches As Union Builds Welding Training Centre

Related article: Welding a viable option for women seeking life-long career

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