The Straight Facts on Apprenticeship Ratios

To become a fully-certified electrician requires a multi-year apprenticeship with on-the-job experience. The Ontario government’s requirement for three certified electricians per apprentice is unfair to thousands of young people and the small businesses that want to hire them. Ontario can move immediately to a 1:1 ratio like almost all other provinces and territories, literally with the stroke of a pen.

Here are the facts:

Bad government policy keeps thousands of young people from working:

  • Ontario has the highest apprenticeship ratios in Canada
    • The Ontario government requires contractors to have three certified electricians for every apprentice (3:1).
    • Across Canada and the US, 1:1 ratios are the norm.
    • Faced with a severe shortage in the electrical trades, BC now has a one journeyperson to four apprentice ratio (1:4).

Education/Entrance Requirements

Indicate Actual Ratio or Variable (V)
1:2 1:1 1:1-3:1 1:1 2:1 1:1-3:1 1:1 1:1 1:1 NA 1:2 1:1


  • The Ontario government urges young people to go into the skilled trades, then stops them from working.
    • Widely aired government advertising campaigns promote work in the skilled trades amid a growing shortage of skilled journeypersons. Thousands of young people heed the call, enroll in training programs and apply for jobs. Then, many of them learn from employers that they can’t be hired because of unfair apprenticeship rules.
  • The government spends millions of dollars on skilled trades training programs, then closes the door on jobs.
    • In fact, the Province is so concerned about the growing skilled workforce shortage that it added an extra $1.5 billion to expand training programs in the 2008 budget. This includes $75 million to expand apprenticeship training. But much of this spending will produce graduates with no prospect of getting jobs as apprentices - until unfair apprenticeship rules are changed.

The rationale for a 1:1 apprenticeship ratio is strong:

  • Right now, thousands of would-be electrical apprentices are looking for jobs. They want to work, but because of unfair apprenticeship ratios, can’t.
  • Ontario’s independent electrical contractors have thousands of apprenticeship job openings now. They are ready to hire.
  • There is a large skilled trades workforce shortage, and it is growing fast
    • 13% of companies reported difficulties hiring electricians and 8% reported problems retaining them, according to independent research.
    • As baby boomers head toward retirement, over 17% of the sector’s workforce will be eligible to retire by 2010 and 37% by 2014.
    • The shortage of electricians is so severe that the federal government fast-tracks immigrants who are qualified electricians.
    • The Ontario government is investing heavily in training and promotional programs specifically because the government itself has identified the ongoing shortage of skilled tradespeople in Ontario, including electricians, as a pressing public policy issue.
  • Electrical apprentices in the many jurisdictions with a 1:1 ratio have a good safety record, produce high quality work, and progress well to full certification. Even in Ontario, a 1:1 ratio is permitted for small electrical contractors with up to two electricians, without safety concerns.
  • For those fortunate enough to find apprentice jobs, electrical work is a great career choice.
    • Qualified electricians are among the best paid of all skilled trades.
    • Apprentices earn more over time as they gain experience, and within five years they have highly-marketable skills.
    • For this reason, it’s no wonder that many more young Ontarians want to become electricians than can find apprenticeship positions. This gap is growing with the economic downturn, particularly in the manufacturing sector.

Changing the apprenticeship ratio from the current 3:1 to 1:1 involves a simple administrative step by Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. There is nothing stopping the Minister from exercising his authority to change the ratios at any time.

Read the decision by the adjudication panel from the Ontario College of Trades on the ratio review for Construction and Maintenance Electrican: