New government programs attracting more skilled trades professionals

New government programs attracting more skilled trades professionals

< Back to Articles | Topics: Working for you | Contributors: Hon. Jill Balser, Minister of Labour, Skills and Immigration | Published: February 1, 2024

Nova Scotia is a province on the move! As a result, the Halifax area is experiencing tremendous growth, bringing in many new customers and entrepreneurs to help local businesses thrive.

While a growing province means welcoming new economic opportunities and the talent that we need to support important sectors like healthcare and construction, it also means experiencing growing pains. So, now is the time to be thoughtful in building our plan to a stronger future.

We are now setting the stage for Nova Scotian businesses to succeed, and that means finding solutions to build the workforce that our growing economy needs right now. We understand that swift action is needed to get more people working in skilled trades faster.

Recently, we announced a series of actions to accelerate growth in the skilled trades workforce and modernize the apprenticeship system. Our goal is for Nova Scotia to be a skilled trades leader in Canada.

With an investment of $100 million over three years, we will invest in recruitment and training, and we will also focus efforts to retain more of the skilled trades professionals that we already have.

We want to make the apprenticeship pathway seamless for those who choose this career path and support skilled trades professionals throughout their pathway to certification. We are working with many partners on dozens of new initiatives, and there is an important role for employers to help support this work.

Many people can choose “direct entry” into the skilled trades. This means that workers can be hired by a company that is participating in the apprenticeship system and acquire skills and progress through their training while working under the supervision of a journeyperson.

Nova Scotia needs more employers to participate in apprenticeship, and more journeypersons to engage in training and mentoring more apprentices to acquire the skills needed to become journeypersons. So, we have increased the number of apprentices that a journeyperson can train on job sites — one journeyperson can now train up to three apprentices in most trades.

We’ve also removed final level senior apprentices from the training ratio calculation in all trades. In 2024, we plan to offer new incentives to journeypersons to mentor apprentices as they successfully progress to certification. And we are working to make it easier for people with skilled trades experience to become certified, so they can earn more money and mentor the next generation.

To encourage small and medium sized employers to register, retain and support apprentices to completion, employers can receive up to $25,000 in funding for the duration of an apprenticeship. If the employer hires an apprentice from an equity-deserving group, the funding increases to a maximum of $30,000 with support from the Apprenticeship START program.

To modernize our approach to apprenticeship and continuously listen to what’s happening in the system, we are refreshing our approach to industry engagement. We’ll be establishing new Industry Sector Committees under the Apprenticeship Board and will soon be looking for new voices and perspectives at those tables.

I am so pleased with the positive feedback we’ve received from all sectors, especially from the construction sector, on these innovative options to train more people, faster. I am also incredibly pleased with the engagement and recommendations we’ve received so far from the Pre-Apprenticeship Panel. This a group of sector experts, which includes industry and employee representatives, and Nova Scotia Community College are helping to inform the work the agency is focused on now, and for years to come.

These measures have been chosen to generate meaningful results.

These actions will add up to 5,000 more new apprentices to the system in the next three years and increase the number of journeypersons and trades qualifiers by 1,000 per year. We are also aiming to increase the retention to completion rate of apprentices from 43% to 60% — one of the highest in the country — within five years.

These initiatives build on work already underway.

To support recruitment and retention, the More Opportunity for Skilled Trades (MOST) program offers eligible skilled workers a refund of the provincial income tax paid on the first $50,000 they earn. So far, almost 2,000 young workers under the age of 30 have benefited from the program, and we know many others are eligible to apply.

A new immigration stream of Nova Scotia’s Provincial Nominee Program is the Critical Construction Worker Pilot. This stream includes 21 in-demand occupations in the construction sector, largely focused on the residential building trades. What’s new about this pilot is that it does not require a high school diploma — a barrier we heard from industry — rather it prioritizes industry-specific training and on-the-job work experience.

We are also working hard to ensure young people, women and equity-deserving groups, know about and consider a career in the skilled trades through marketing, in-school programs and hands-on opportunities.

Employers will have greater success when they offer workplaces that are inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible. I encourage employers to check out the free Welcoming Workplaces toolkit at to learn about ways to make sure your workplace is more welcoming and inclusive.

These efforts can help businesses retain the skilled talent that employers have worked so hard to attract, while also recruiting new talent and building businesses to meet the needs of our growing economy.

As Minister, it is important to me that the voices of Nova Scotians – business owners, young workers, experienced workers, industry experts, those new to the province, the post-secondary sector – are heard. And that is why I’m so appreciative of all our partners and the work we’re doing together.

The goals we’ve set for our province are bold and ambitious. We want a modern, thoughtful, and hands-on Apprenticeship system to support apprentices through to completion because when we think of the work to come, we’ll need everyone working together to make it happen. That is why this work excites me. We won’t shy away from the challenges we face as a province, but instead we’ll tackle these challenges head on, together.

Let’s keep moving our province forward in the best possible way for all Nova Scotians. I’m committed and our government is committed. I hope you are, too.


To find out what we do next to help action more skilled trades faster, please visit the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency:

< Back to Articles | Topics: Working for you

Stay Connected

Subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter and receive important updates on Halifax Chamber events, Member benefits and advocacy news.