Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment Report for the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2017 and ending March 31, 2018
Chapter 2 - 3 Employment Insurance support for apprentices

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

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2.3. Employment Insurance support for apprentices

For many skilled trades, apprenticeship is the path to gain the skills and experience that are necessary for certification and participate fully in the labour market. In Canada, the apprenticeship system is an industry-driven learning system that combines on-the-job and technical training. Each province or territory is responsible for apprenticeship training within its jurisdiction. As a result, apprenticeship programs in Canada, including the duration and delivery method of technical training, vary across trades and across provinces and territories.

In Quebec, apprentices generally complete all of their technical training at a college or training institution before beginning on-the-job training. In the rest of Canada, apprentices start with on-the-job training followed by technical training through a variety of approaches. These include in-class learning, self-learning, distance learning, night classes or day release programs.

In most jurisdictions, to enter an apprenticeship program, a prospective apprentice must be at least 16 years old and have successfully completed Grade 12 or have an equivalent amount of work experience or related education. In addition, the potential apprentice must find a job with an employer who will sponsor and train him or her under the mentorship of a qualified person.

To help EI contributors continue their apprenticeship and become certified journeypersons or tradespeople, the Employment Insurance program offers temporary income support to those who are unemployed and attending full-time school technical training (sometimes referred to as block-release training). To qualify for the EI benefits for apprentices, their respective province or territory must have referred them under section 25 of the Employment Insurance Act for each block of full time technical training that is required as part of their apprenticeship and they must meet EI regular benefits eligibility requirementsFootnote 62. Employers may also choose to offer their apprentices Supplemental Unemployment Benefit (SUB) plans to increase their weekly earnings during their periods of technical training, up to 95% of the apprentice’s normal weekly earnings.Footnote 63

As apprentices, individuals can apply for EI benefits up to seven days before their last day of work and they are only required to serve one waiting period for the full duration of their apprenticeship, even if it involves multiple blocks of full-time technical training, as long as they remain in the same apprenticeship program. They also can elect to be exempt from bi-weekly reporting requirements while receiving EI benefits during full-time technical training.

To help ensure that EI apprentices receive EI benefits without delay while they attend full-time technical training, their province, territory or Indigenous organization provides them with a special reference code issued for each block of full-time technical training. This code facilitates faster processing and payment of their EI benefits and helps speed up payment to apprentices. A recent study showed that 84.5% of EI apprentices in FY1617 received their first benefits payment within 28 days of filing compared with 78.5% for all regular claimants.Footnote 64 In addition, of all apprentices’ applications finalized in FY1617, 45.8% were exempted from serving a waiting period.

Apprentices may be entitled to receive financial support under Part II of the Employment Insurance Act.Footnote 65 which is delivered by the provinces and territories (under the Labour Market Development Agreements) and Indigenous organizations (under the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy).Footnote 66 These EI benefits help cover accommodation, childcare, transportation and other costs incurred while attending technical training. Other financial support from the Government of Canada is also available through programs such as the Canada Apprentice Loan and various apprenticeship grants.

The following sections present detailed statistics on the number of EI claims from apprentices, their weekly level of EI benefits and the duration of their benefits. EI claims from apprentices are those referred under section 25 of the Employment Insurance Act and receiving at least one dollar of EI regular benefits during a period of full-time apprenticeship training.

2.3.1 Employment Insurance claims from apprentices and amount paid

In FY1718, apprentices established 45,900 new claims, a decrease of 4.6% from the previous year. This represents the second consecutive yearly decrease in seven years. The decline was concentrated in Alberta (-10.4%) and Ontario (-9.8%). British Columbia witnessed the largest increase in the number of new claims established in FY1718, with +13.7%.

Outside of periods of full-time training and during the benefit period of a claim, an apprentice may experience a loss of employment income due to circumstances that may require the apprentice to access other types of EI benefits (for instance, lack of available work or care for a newborn child). The claimant may claim those benefits if he or she meets the eligibility requirements for the relevant EI benefit. Of all claims established by apprentices in the reporting fiscal year, 38.2% (or 17,500 claims) contained at least one week of regular benefits paid outside of periods of full-time training. Meanwhile, 1.1% (or 490 claims) included at least one week of special benefits.

The total amount of EI benefits paid to apprentices decreased compared to the previous year (-25.0% in FY1718) and the largest decrease among provinces occurred in Alberta (-37.2%). Of the total of $287.1 million paid in benefits, $194.0 million (or 67.6% of the total EI benefits) were paid while the apprentices attended full-time technical training. Regular benefits outside of periods of full-time training accounted for most of the remaining benefits paid (29.7%), with a small fraction paid in special benefits (2.7%).

Employment Insurance claims from apprentices and amount paid, by region, gender and age

In FY1718, the majority of EI claims from apprentices were established in Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia. Total benefits paid followed a similar distribution.

Men established the vast majority of claims from apprentices (95.0% of all claims) and also accounted for the largest share of all EI benefits paid to apprentices (93.8%). The low proportion of claims by women and benefits paid to them is largely due to the low share of women amongst all apprenticeship-training registrations (12.1% in 2017).Footnote 67

Table 35 – Employment Insurance claims from apprentices and amount paid by province or territory, gender and age, Canada, from FY1617 to FY1718
New claims established Amount paid ($ millions)
FY1617 FY1718 Change (%) FY1617 FY1718 Change (%)
Province or territory
Newfoundland and Labrador 1,510r 1,410 -6.6% $21.8r $16.4 -24.6%
Prince Edward Island 230r 240 +4.3% $1.7r $1.4 -14.1%
Nova Scotia 1,340r 1,400 +4.5% $9.2r $9.0 -1.6%
New Brunswick 1,730r 1,570 -9.2% $13.4r $9.2 -31.2%
Quebec* 170 100 -41.2% $1.9r $1.0 -45.6%
Ontario 13,870r 12,510 -9.8% $82.9r $67.5 -18.6%
Manitoba 3,060r 3,120 +2.0% $20.9r $18.4 -11.7%
Saskatchewan 3,080r 2,850 -7.5% $27.7r $19.1 -31.1%
Alberta 14,620r 13,100 -10.4% $148.8r $93.5 -37.2%
British Columbia 8,370r 9,520 +13.7% $53.1r $50.6 -4.8%
Territories 190 120 -36.8% $1.5r $0.8 -42.2%
Men 45,970r 43,650 -5.0% $361.6r $269.2 -25.6%
Women 2,200r 2,290 +4.1% $21.2r $17.9 -15.5%
Age category
24 years old and under 21,240r 19,990 -5.9% $147.4r $111.8 -24.2%
25 to 44 years old 25,140r 24,380 -3.0% $217.3r $162.3 -25.3%
45 years old and over 1,790r 1,570 -12.3% $18.1r $13.1 -27.9%
Canada 48,170r 45,940 -4.6% $382.8r $287.1 -25.0%
  • Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding. Percentage change is based on unrounded numbers. Includes all claims from apprentices referred under Section 25 of the Employment Insurance Act for which at least $1 of EI benefits was paid while the claimant was on training.
  • r Revised data.
  • * The low number of EI apprentices in Quebec, is due to the unique program design in which apprentices complete all of the technical training prior to beginning on-the-job training.
  • Source: Employment and Social Development Canada, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

From an age perspective, claimants aged 25 to 44 years old established the largest share of EI claims associated with apprenticeship programs and full-time technical training (53.1%), followed by those aged 15 to 24 years old who accounted for (43.5%). Claimants aged 45 years and over who accounted for 46.9% of all EI regular claims established only 3.4% of all EI apprenticeship claims. This is expected, as the incidence of job-related training declines with age, though the gap between older and younger workers appears to be shrinking over time.Footnote 68

Of interest, figures on the number of claims for benefits, the total amount paid, the duration of benefits and the average benefit amount during the reporting period and the years following the end of the 2008 recession contrast with those observed during that recessionary period. Indeed, in a recent ESDC study, aspects of claims during the 2008 recession (number, amount paid and duration) increased significantly during this period.Footnote 69

Apprenticeships before and after the 2008 recession*

The total number of claims from apprentices more than doubled between 1991 and 2009. There was a substantial decrease in the number of new registrations (-15.2%) during the 2008 recession along with a general decline since 2014.

Apprentices have some distinguishing characteristics. The large majority were men, young (under 25 years of age in 2015 and between 25 and 34 in 2007) with high school diploma as their highest level of education upon registration, and most of them registered in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Between 1991 and 2016, about half of all apprentices were registered in four large occupations: electricians (16.2%), carpenters (11.9%), automotive service technicians (11.8%) and plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters (9.8%).

Not all apprentices complete their training. According to 2015 National Apprenticeship Survey (NAS), 57.5% of registered apprentices completed their apprenticeship training while 42.5% did not. The most commonly cited reasons for not completing apprenticeship training were financial constraints, inconsistent work or lack of work, medical reasons as well as family or personal issues.

Throughout training, a great number of apprentices applied for the financial support of EI benefits. According to EI administrative data, the number of EI claims from apprentices increased by 24.2% with the recession. There were 49,982 before the recession in 2007 and 62,071 by the end of the recession in 2009. Layoffs were key drivers of the increase. The duration of EI benefits also increased with the recession. However, the average duration of non-training related benefits was higher than for training-related benefits that was relatively constant. This means that EI apprentice benefits were exercised in conjunction with other EI benefits. Moreover, the total amount of EI benefits paid out for apprentices also increased with the recession by almost doubling from $176 million in 2007 to $326 million in 2009 (expressed in 2002 dollars).

*ESDC, Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment Report: Apprenticeships Before and After the 2008 Recession, (Ottawa: ESDC, Labour Market Information Directorate, 2019)

Employment Insurance claims from apprentices and amount paid, by sector and occupation

Similar to previous years, the majority of the apprentice claims were established by claimants from the Construction sector (61.8% of claims established and 66.5% for amount paid) in FY1718 (see Table 36).

The majority of EI claimants participating in apprenticeship programs and attending full-time technical training were associated with the Trades and skilled transport and equipment operators occupational groupFootnote 70 (90.7% during the reporting fiscal year). These claimants also received 90.0% of total benefits paid to apprentices. While apprentice claimants from this occupational group were mainly employed in the Construction sector, they were also found in Manufacturing, Other services (excluding Public administration) and Retail trade sectors.

Table 36 – Employment Insurance claims from apprentices and amount paid by sector and occupational grouping, Canada, FY1617 to FY1718
New claims established Amount paid ($ millions)
FY1617r FY1718 Change (%) FY1617 FY1718 Change (%)
Construction 30,070r 28,400 -5.6% $254.1r $190.8 -24.9%
Manufacturing 3,690r 3,140 -14.9% $31.5r $18.6 -41.1%
Other services (excluding public administration) 3,090r 3,050 -1.3% $18.2r $14.8 -18.9%
Other sectors 11,320r 11,350 +0.3% $79.0r $62.9 -20.3%
Occupational grouping
Trades and skilled transport and equipment operators 43,250r 41,650 -3.7% $341.8r $258.4 -24.4%
Other occupations 4,920r 4,290 -12.8% $41.0r $28.7 -30.0%
Canada 48,170r 45,940 -4.6% $382.8r $287.1 -25.0%
  • Note: Totals may not add up to the total due to rounding. Percentage change is based on unrounded numbers. Includes all claims from apprentices referred under Section 25 of the Employment Insurance Act for which at least $1 of EI benefits was paid while the claimant was on training.
  • r Revised data.
  • Source: Employment and Social Development Canada, Employment Insurance (EI) administrative data. Data are based on a 10% sample of EI administrative data.

2.3.2 Level and durationFootnote 71 of Employment Insurance benefits for apprentices

During the reporting period, the average weekly benefit rate payable to apprentices increased by 0.6% to $491. Consistent with previous years, the average weekly benefit rate for apprentices was higher than the average for EI regular claims ($457) overall.

Apprentice claimants from the three Territories and Alberta received the highest average weekly benefit rate during the reporting period ($517 and $515, respectively). On average, the weekly benefit rate received was higher among men ($492) than women ($475) and among claimants over 45 years old ($503) compared to claimants under 25 years old ($473).

The average duration of EI regular benefits received by EI claimants while on full-time technical training decreased by 8.4%, from 9.4 weeks in the previous year to 8.6 weeks during the reporting fiscal year. Claims established in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia posted the lowest average duration (7.6 weeks and 7.8 weeks, respectively). Conversely, those from Prince Edward Island, Ontario and Alberta posted the highest ones (10.2, 8.9 and 8.7 weeks, respectively). The average duration of EI regular benefits received by men and women while on full-time technical training was almost equal, with 8.6 weeks and 8.8 weeks respectively. Claimants aged 45 years or older received somewhat fewer weeks of benefits (8.0 weeks) relative to claimants from other age groups.

In addition to regular benefits paid while on full-time training, apprentices qualifying for EI regular benefits outside of periods of full-time training received an average of 10.1 weeks of EI regular benefits, which represents a decrease of 23.4% compared to 13.2 weeks in the previous year. Claims established in Newfoundland and Labrador had the highest duration (19.8 weeks), followed by claims from Saskatchewan (12.8 weeks) and Nova Scotia (12.4 weeks).

EI regular claimants and referrals to training*

A recent departmental study found that, across Canada in FY1718, approximately 73,000 EI regular claimants received Section 25 referrals to attend full-time training. Of this number, 63% were referred to apprenticeship training (referred apprentices) and 37% were referred to other types of training (referred non-apprentices). The number of referrals tends to increase during periods of economic shock and uncertainty while decreasing during periods of economic growth and stability.

Focusing on the referred apprentices, benefit entitlement was longer and EI use was shorter for referred apprentices compared with regular claimants. On average, in FY1718, referred apprentices had an entitlement of 37.8 weeks compared to 32.5 weeks for regular claimants and they tended to use fewer weeks of benefits. The majority (61%) stopped receiving EI benefits right after their technical training and had an average claim of 9.0 weeks. Those who stayed on EI after training used 22.9 weeks compared to regular claimants who used 20.1 weeks of benefits. Across provinces, a higher proportion of apprentices stopped receiving EI after their technical training in Ontario and in Western Canada. In Newfoundland and Labrador, a higher proportion of apprentices stayed on EI. In the remaining Atlantic Provinces and Territories, almost equal distribution was observed among apprentices who stopped receiving EI and who stayed on EI after their technical training.

Referred apprentices were less likely to exhaust their entitlement than regular claimants. In FY1718, their exhaustion rate was 19% as compared to 34% for all regular claimants. This pattern persists in all provinces and territories.

* ESDC, Descriptive Analyses of EI Regular Claimants Referred to Full-time Training, (Ottawa: ESDC, Employment Insurance Policy Directorate, 2019)

In addition to changes in economic cycles and regulations, training can also affect future use of EI regular benefits. A recent studyFootnote 72 found that participation in job-related training reduces the probability of being unemployed and of receiving EI benefits. It also reduces the duration of the unemployment and of EI regular benefits. Among the different forms of job-related training employer-sponsored training has a greater impact on EI and unemployment compared from self-sponsored training.

Findings suggest that work-place training has several positive outcomes. It reduces the probability of receiving EI benefits, reduces benefit duration and reduces unemployment duration. Men are 1.4 percentage points and women are 0.8 percentage points less likely to receive EI benefits. EI benefit duration reduces by 4.9 weeks for men and 3.1 weeks for women and unemployment duration by more than 4.7 weeks for men and 3.2 weeks for women.

Employment Insurance apprentices and reason for job separation

While the majority of EI apprentices temporarily leave their job in order to attend full-time technical training, some others will register in an apprenticeship program following the termination of their job. The circumstances leading an individual to become an EI apprentice may have an impact on their interaction with the EI program.

For instance, the use of EI regular benefits is much more frequent and important for EI apprentices who were laid-off compared with those who had a block-release for full-time technical training. In FY1718, 88.6% of all completed claims from EI apprentices whose last job ended with a layoff received EI regular benefits during their claim for an average duration of 13.5 weeks. In comparison, 25.6% of EI apprentices who temporarily stopped working for the sole purpose of attending full-time technical training received EI regular benefits for an average of 7.3 weeks.

On average, laid-off EI apprentices received a total of 21.0 weeks of EI benefits (all types of benefits considered) in FY1718, twice as much as block-released EI apprentices (10.6 weeks). This difference is also reflected in total EI benefits paid to each type of EI apprentices, as laid-off apprentices received on average $10,378 compared with $5,207 for those on block-release training.

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