The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, Province of Ontario

The Challenge:

As per the mandate from the Premier: “to develop a modernized apprenticeship system focused on increasing completion rates, increasing participation of traditionally under-represented groups, and creating clearer, better pathways for learners.”


To develop a strategic framework and opportunity areas for future implementation with the Ministry, there first needs to be a thorough understanding of how to best modernize the system. To do so, three initial research questions surfaced to help ground research methods:


:: RESEARCH (pt 1)

Researching to uncover the apprenticeship journey included in-depth interviews (IDI’s) and on-site shadowing with a wide range of apprentices across Ontario. It was incredibly important that a large cross-section of apprentices were represented—so not only was representation across the skilled trades sector important, but also experience, geographical location, and gender was considered. To better understand how apprenticeship was structured, research was also conducted with industry experts (i.e. employers, pre-apprenticeship program stakeholders, Ontario College of Trades, etc.).

Although apprenticeship opportunities are incredibly broad—ranging from construction to hair dressing—the interviews yielded similar barriers and pathways of apprenticeship completion. Namely, the full journey of apprenticeship could take anywhere from 3 to over 6 years to complete, and this was dependent on a variety of factors: course availability, hours vs competency-based completion, job security, workplace ratios, etc. Collectively, these findings were synthesized into the first version of the journey map.

:: Workshop (Pt 1)

Approximately 300 participants across the skilled trades sector came together to initiate discussion and collaborate on the first draft of the apprentice’s journey map. This was a unique moment because the co-creation was finally an opportunity for apprentices as well as all of the back-of-house stakeholders to finally interact in a single setting and simultaneously participate in plenary discussion. Key highlighted activities include introduction to personas to help all participants to start thinking from the lens of the apprentice, putting a name and a face to the apprenticeship journey; having 300 participants validate and collaboratively mark-up the draft journey map in smaller breakout groups; as well as heat-mapping the highs, lows, and drop-offs through dot voting.

MAESD workshop personas & booklet [french ver]

MAESD workshop personas & booklet [french ver]

:: RESEARCH (pt 2)

Consolidating all feedback and synthesizing data, it was determined that two key areas to help develop a more robust, accurate map was to investigate completion rates & increasing participation, as well as uncovering clearer pathways of the compulsory vs voluntary trades through to certification. To do so, additional IDIs were conducted with apprentices—specifically focusing on drop-offs (individuals no longer pursuing their apprenticeship)—and IDIs with stakeholders and apprentices for the Certificate of Qualification pathway exam.

:: Workshop (Pt 2)

On July 17 2017, a similar size of 300 participants across the skilled trades sector reconvened at the Beanfield Centre. In this half-day workshop, key outcomes were to validate the final draft of the journey map, and focusing on the drop-off points, to work in smaller breakout groups to identify opportunity areas and how they might mitigate those risks.

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As part of the deliverable package, the feedback from Workshop 2 was synthesized into a final document that outlined these opportunity areas.

A bilingual journey map document consolidated the apprenticeship journey into a single visual, including pre-apprenticeship programs, and associating apprentice emotional highs and lows. In addition to pairing verbatim quotes from the IDI’s with these moments in the journey, it added more colour to their journey. In addition, highlighted the drop-off points identified from the workshops, and painted a colour with preliminary insights which were synthesized throughout the project. The final draft of the journey map was disseminated to Ontario institutions and colleges associated with MAESD—and made a public document.

Opportunity areas were identified and compiled into a document that detailed how to leverage various stakeholders at different moments in the apprentice’s journey to alleviate moments of stress and decrease drop-off rates.