Apprenticeships: A College Alternative


If you’re planning on pursuing a college degree in a skilled trade, take note of a recent piece in the Globe and Mail which considers an often-overlooked job route: the apprenticeship.

Post-secondary education has become a necessary stepping stone to most sought-after jobs. However, most youth opt for a university degree, overlooking other routes entirely.

Why apprentice?

While universities account for the majority of post-secondary enrolment (59%), rising tuition costs and a growing desire for a job-friendly education have prompted interest in college degrees which teach a skilled trade.

Learning a skilled trade offers impressive earnings and a wealth of job opportunities, particularly in western provinces like British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. College enrolment is significantly less common than university, accounting for just 28% of enrolments nation-wide.

Still, those looking to pursue a college education can face difficulty raising the necessary funds, particularly if they’re struggling with student debt from a university degree or other qualification.

An apprenticeship offers a less expensive alternative to a college degree while allowing students to pursue a lucrative career path.

Studies conducted by Canadian universities and Industry Canada indicate that male apprentices stand to earn 2% more than college graduates.

Though it’s a slight difference, the earnings lead apprentices have over those who only complete a high school diploma is a much more substantial 24%.

A word of warning

There is a necessary gender distinction to be noted, as women generally gained less from pursuing an apprenticeship—in some cases meeting with less success than women who only complete a high school diploma.

However, the studies suggest that this discrepancy is largely due to gender segregation into low-paying industries. Women who pursued apprenticeships in male-dominated industries often stood to earn disproportionately more than their male counterparts.

Availability is also an issue. While many European countries have long-entrenched apprenticeship programs, they’re less common in Canada, accounting for just 13% of post-secondary traffic.

Many employers aren’t willing to offer an apprenticeship to someone with no training, and others prefer hiring workers with some college education or certification.

If you have a personal connection which could turn into an apprenticeship however, it’s well worth looking into.

Skilled Trades Week on TalentEgg featuring jobs and apprenticeships from Teck Resources, CN, SGS and Molson Coors

About the author

Elias Da Silva-Powell is a Content, Marketing and Community Specialist at TalentEgg, as well as a two-time graduate of Queen's University. An avid bow-titan, he has been trying to bring whimsical neck wear back into the mainstream since 2008. He's around on Twitter: @EDSPowell and you can check out his profile on LinkedIn, and even G+.