Ford government passes legislation to abolish OCOT, set 1:1 apprentice to journeyperson ratios

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liuna rally
Premier Doug Ford at the Queens Park LiUNA rally (photo provided by LiUNA 183)

Ontario’s Conservative provincial government has passed legislation to reset apprentice-to-journeymen ratios, place a moratorium on compulsory trades and, most significantly, set the stage tp dismantle the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT).

Not surprisingly, organizations who have opposed the OCOT are happy with the change, while the Ontario Building Trades are less enthusiastic.

The Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance (OSTA) says he passage of the Ford government’s “Making Ontario Open for Business Act” on Nov. 21 is a major step forward in narrowing Ontario’s skills gap by allowing more people to get hired and trained for high demand jobs in the skilled trades.

“As the barriers to apprenticeship training come down, the real work is just getting started,” said OSTA chair Patrick McManus. “There’s a lot of catching up to do to attract and train the next generation and do it before thousands of baby boomers retire from the skilled trades industry.”

The new legislation includes a 1:1 journey person-to-apprentice ratio. The OSTA has been a vocal OCOT critic, asserting that excessive regulations have limited hiring and prevented more modern approaches to skills training.

“We’re strong advocates of bold, innovative and flexible apprenticeship training that’s better aligned with the skills that employers require,” McManus said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Ford government to ensure future generations are equipped with the right skills for our changing economy.”

Earlier, the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario (PBCTCO) representing more than 150,000 skilled tradespeople, said in a statement that the decision to wind down the OCOT is very concerning.

“One of the original intents of the College was to professionalize the trades and remove government involvement in the regulation and administration of the trades in much the same way that teachers, lawyers, doctors, nurses and others have in their own regulatory bodies,” said the council’s business manager Patrick Dillon.

Among other things, the current system administered through the OCOT brings labour, contractors and business owners together to review and agree upon ratios for each trade, the Building Trades said. “OCOT’s ratio decisions are based on a number of evidence-based factors that affect each trade. The resulting apprenticeship ratio is specific to that trade and not a one-size-fits-all approach that is dramatically different than the proposal in Bill 47, on this issue.”

“Ontario has the most advanced training system in the country, if not the continent,” council president Jim Hogarth said in the statement. “The ratios dramatically impact the industry’s ability to attract and retain apprentices, resulting in the most productive and safest workforce across all jurisdictions.

“The proposed changes to apprenticeship ratios should be concerning to all Ontarians. Apprenticeships touch on worker and consumer safety and are a cornerstone to quality construction in this province.”

“Each trade is unique and having the appropriate apprenticeship ratio ensures that apprentices get the right training to qualify as journey persons,” Hogarth said. “When industry comes together to determine the appropriate ratio, everyone benefits, including workers, contractors, owner-clients and the public,” he concluded.

“We have seen how former Premier Gordon Campbell’s British Columbia government unilaterally changed apprenticeship ratios and dismantled the trades training system several years ago and BC’s construction industry today has severe shortages in every skilled trade in that province. A whole era of de-skilling the construction trades is the result of BC’s ill-advised changes,” said Dillon.

The government hasn’t said when it will enact the legislative provisions to wind up the OCOT.

“The College will work with the government to support an orderly transition of key functions in the coming months and looks forward to providing input on creating a stronger skilled trades system in Ontario,” The OCOT said in a statement.

In the meantime, the organization says it will continue collecting dues and continue key services including:

  • Issuing or renewing Certificates of Qualification and other credentials;
  • Verifying credentials on worksites for compulsory trades;
  • Undertaking trade equivalency assessments; and
  • Supporting labour mobility through credential verification.

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