My speech on Jobs for New Graduates and Apprentices

October 22, 2014

Fore more information, read the press release on this NDP Legislation here.

Bill No. 39, an Act to Support the Retention of New Graduates and Apprentices in Nova Scotia is often referred to – this type of legislation is often referred to as enabling legislation. It’s not one that really sets out to be obstructionist to the government or to be of a terribly philosophical bent, it’s one that hopefully people will see it as overall supportive of the economy of this province.

In Question Period every day in this House we have questions asked – and some of them are even answered – about out-migration and cost of education, especially post-secondary, and we are always at a loss as to how to retain these young people. I think

Bill No. 39, an Act to Support the Retention of New Graduates and Apprentices in Nova Scotia, is one of the ways to do it. Is it the silver bullet, as they say? No, but also the catchphrase may be done by a whole different method. There are many parts to the recipe of solving unemployment, especially youth unemployment.

What we’re asking the government to see and agree to in this bill is that, when we’re doing procurement for the government, especially when we’re letting contracts, there be a set-aside. And within that set-aside there’d be apprenticeships available, and it would be, for others, a certain number of graduates from other institutions – not necessarily in the applied trades that they would need apprenticeships for, but other recent graduates who would be seeking employment.

I’ll give you an example: if we were to give a tax rebate to a company that was in the financial services sector, say, that promised that they would hire 100 people, that a percentage of those hired would be new graduates.

Certainly, in other contracts for procurement, we let, straight-up such things as road construction and other government infrastructures – whether it’s building schools or hospitals – that they would be set aside again. That apprentice would be hired and they would be using this guy, and not only would the general contractor have to adhere to the hiring practice as set out, but also the subcontractors, Madam Speaker.

This would allow young people the opportunity to start their apprenticeship training here in this province. We also heard in Question Period today about aligning our apprenticeship programs with other provinces’. I agree with the Premier that this is a great idea. It was started under our government, and it was something that we wholeheartedly agree with. We agree with this government of the day proceeding on with it.

If we could start training here, even if the – we’ll use an example. If there was a hospital to be built and we could hire a few apprentices, but say the whole build didn’t last the four years, say, that it would take for them to get their apprenticeship hours and the necessary blocks. They’d be on their way, and with that under their belt, then they could go out to other areas and finish it off, but they would have a good foundation here in Nova Scotia. It makes absolute sense that we would put this in as a rider, if you will, in any of our contracts with people that do business with this province.

I was somewhat dismayed and perplexed when I was in government and found out, I think, in the breadth of government, there was either none or there was only one person apprenticing that was employed by the Province of Nova Scotia. Of all the work we do in TIR and across the whole breadth of it, there was only one. This is not to point the finger at anybody, but it was like a “Wow, I should have had a V8” moment.

Can you imagine that? We’re asking that the private sector – and I’ll talk a bit about putting the apprenticeship board together, because this is where these decisions would be vested. Can you imagine an employer the size of the Nova Scotia Government, in the vicinity of 12,000 employees, and we didn’t have apprentices? All the work we do? Isn’t that something that we really should have been watching and doing. Is that fair for us to say to the private sector that you are not doing your job when it comes to recruitment and helping with the apprenticeship program and we don’t have anybody in our own workforce. Shame on us for that.

It is my hope that this bill will be given a favourable eye, if you will, and looked at for its merits. It is a bill that is not asking, or putting the government in a position of, aha, we gotcha. It is not that type of bill. As I stated earlier, it is an enabling piece of legislation that I would think – it’s not in here; we are not prescribing timelines that the government has to do it in. What we are saying is, look, will you look at this? It is a good idea. It’s the taxpayers’ money investing in a facility or we are giving you a tax rebate or whatever form of assistance an employer may take.

We would do two things: if they are in the applied trades and it’s applicable to use apprentices, then we say there should be so many apprentices used and they should be from Nova Scotia institutions, and the same with, whether it’s a business arena or the financial arena or for some other aspect, we could use recently graduated students and go forward from there.

This bill is one small spoonful of medicine that could help what ails the Province of Nova Scotia when it comes to losing our young people and would allow us to retain, hopefully, some of our young people. This problem will not be solved overnight and I dare say by one government in one term. What I do agree with though, is that with taking steps that are maybe a little bit out of the ordinary, out of our comfort zones from time to time, it may help us. This may very well help us to solve a portion of that and we could incrementally move this forward. It would be good if we could just see the purpose of this bill and the purpose of this bill, once again, is for government to look – at the end of the day, government has a majority – at this bill and say, we want to improve on it or we are going roll it into one of our own bills, I could live with that.

I’m not looking for a bill that has my name stamped on it or the name of this Party stamped on it. What I’m looking for is legislation that will help (a) the Province of Nova Scotia, and (a+) the young people of Nova Scotia. If we can do that, however that happens, it would be a good thing for all of us. Thank you Madam Speaker.