04/10/2014 01:57 EDT | Updated 06/10/2014 05:59 EDT

Nova Scotia government to create industry-led apprenticeship agency

HALIFAX - A proposed private sector-led agency in Nova Scotia would help steer policy to ensure apprentices can get jobs, the province's labour minister said Thursday.

Labour Minister Kelly Regan said changes to the Apprenticeship and Trades Qualifications Act would give the private sector more influence in apprenticeship programs.

"We want industry and employers to direct the future of apprenticeship in this province," said Regan. "We want the apprenticeship system to be more responsive to our trades and our workforce so Nova Scotia businesses will flourish."

Regan said $2.6 million was included in last week's budget to run the new agency.

Labour Department officials said the agency would be staffed by 40 existing bureaucrats, with another seven to be hired over the next two years.

The 15-member board would consist of 10 industry representatives and an official from the Nova Scotia Community College, while the minister would appoint the four remaining members to ensure diversity and representation from all areas of the province.

Work on the initiative, which began in 2011 under the previous NDP government, was welcomed by the president of the Construction Association of Nova Scotia.

Duncan Williams said giving more control over apprenticeship policy to industry should lead to faster decisions to address its needs.

"With an industry-driven board ... it's immediate feedback and it's real time information that's making its way into the apprenticeship system," he said.

Regan said other proposed changes would enable the government to enter into agreements with other provinces outside Atlantic Canada to have out-of-province training recognized and give industry more influence in trades training at the Nova Scotia Community College.

She said Nova Scotia currently has just fewer than 6,000 apprentices.