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Recent Research on Transfer, Apprenticeships, and Skilled Trades

December 15, 2022

Trading Places: The Flow of Students into and out of Apprenticeship Programs

Dr. Nicole Malette and Dr. Karen Robson, ONCAT project R2142

Apprenticeships provide alternative education pathways for a significant proportion of the Canadian population. Through interviews with Ontario-based former apprentices who left to attend college or university (not connected to their apprenticeship program), as well as former college or university students who left their postsecondary institution to pursue apprenticeships, this project advances our understanding of former apprenticeship/undergraduate students’ educational pathways and transfer pathways.


  • According to university and college administrators, students transfer from university or college into apprenticeships because of perceived employment prospects and interest alignment; similarly, they said that students transfer from apprenticeships into colleges/universities because of perceived employment prospects: “With a changing economy, a diverse academic background might help students feel more protected” (Malette & Robson, 2022, 22).
  • Although administrators interviewed for this research said they commonly saw students switching programs for greater economic stability, the students in this study explained that they transferred programs based on interest alignments.
  • Students reported that lack of knowledge about a program or industry was challenging for their transition: “Steve suggested that if institutions had liaisons for each program, with industry knowledge, this would help facilitate the transfer process more effectively” (Ibid., 36).

Understanding Transfer Experience in the Skilled Trades

Kyle Paul, Rashmi Gupta, Matthew Hack, Samantha Sanford, ONCAT project R2141

The shortage of skilled trade workers in Ontario has led to a renewed focus on enabling access to skilled trades education through related postsecondary and apprenticeship training. This project explores the educational pathways taken by students entering construction-related programs at Durham College, their demographic profiles, and academic outcomes. To do so, it contrasts this group with individuals entering non-constructed related programs within the institution.


  • Interest in construction-related skilled trades programs at Durham College is prevalent among the young, domestic, male population. There is a need for continued supports for female and international students in skilled trades programs.
  • There is a significant opportunity to promote skilled trades education to international students to help address the skilled trades labour shortage in the Province and contribute to the economy.
  • Older students in skilled trades programs, particularly those with prior postsecondary experience, were likely to have higher academic performance in the first semester than their younger peer group.
  • There is potential for pathways among certain programs in the Technology occupational cluster to skilled trades programs at Durham College.

Apprentices in Ontario: Who Pursues Apprenticeships and What Are Their Pathways into and out of Various PSE Institutions and the Labour Market?

Dr. Michael Haan, ONCAT Project R2138

An important and under-researched aspect of developing a skilled workforce in Canada is the pathways taken by students into and out of PSE and apprenticeships, and, more specifically, how student mobility factors into completion rates. Drawing on Statistics Canada’s Education and Labour Market Longitudinal Platform (ELMLP), this research project analyzes the students who pursue apprenticeships; what lateral and vertical transfer pathways students take into and out of various postsecondary education (PSE) institutions in Ontario; and the sequencing of these transfers.


  • Our findings demonstrate that most apprentices do not transfer from another type of PSE program and that a substantial number are non-visible minority, native-born men who are between the ages of 15 to 24. We also find that not only are major trades groups gender segregated, but a higher number of visible minority apprentices study female dominated trades.
  • In our analyses of the pathways in and out of apprenticeships we find that, while most enter apprenticeships through employment, many end up re-entering the labour market without completing their apprenticeship training.
  • The second most common pathway occurs in the jump from employment, to completion, to employment again. Further, through our Ordinary Least Squares regression results, we find that those who switch their program of study earn less than those who do not switch, suggesting that they either transferred to a lower-paying program, or that they may have encountered barriers during the transition.
  • The results also illustrate a significant gender pay gap that is not explained by the covariates in the model. This suggests that factors other than gender segregation in the skilled trades and age impact the pay differential between men and women.