Ontario Construction Report staff writer
The Ontario government is introducing new measures to help tradespeople get their certification from one reliable, streamlined destination through Skilled Trades Ontario, an agency replacing the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT).
“My staff showed me an apprentice’s journey map and I thought I was looking at the Tokyo subway map,” Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said at a news conference in May. “It’s no wonder apprentices and tradespeople find this confusing. This needs to end and it will.”
Changes proposed in the Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades Act, if passed by the Legislature, will make the system more accessible, efficient and easier to navigate.
Organized labour and employers’ organizations both support general direction of new legislation
“We welcome a new agency that takes a fresh approach and genuine interest in advancing Ontario’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system,” said Stephen Hamilton, chair of the Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance. “We are hopeful that Skilled Trades Ontario will stay focused on its mandate to promote the trades and encourage employers to play a greater role in mentoring aspiring tradespeople from the start to finish of their apprenticeship. That’s the way to close the skills gap, lead economic recovery and keep Ontario competitive.”
Skilled Trades Ontario will lead the promotion, research and development of apprenticeship training and curriculum standards and provide a “seamless one window experience” for apprentice registration, issuance of certificates and renewals, and equivalency.
“Skilled trades workers are the engine of our economy,” said Labour Minister Monte McNaughton. “Under the current system, responsibilities are shared between OCOT and the ministry, causing confusion and added burden for people wanting to pursue a career in the skilled trades, which leads to employers struggling to find qualified skilled trades workers.”
As recommended by the Skilled Trades Panel’s first report, the new agency will provide system oversight and be responsible for regulatory decisions, financial supports and take on responsibility for compliance and enforcement of the skilled trades, building on existing expertise, best practices and a robust inspector network that is already in place across the province.
“We heard loud and clear from apprentices, journeypersons and employers alike that OCOT is not working,” said McNaughton. “Following our expert panel’s recommendations, we are taking a thoughtful and measured approach by launching Skilled Trades Ontario, a new agency that will put the trades first.”
Data suggests that the need to replace retiring workers is greater for skilled trades workers than for other occupations. In 2016, nearly one in three journeypersons were aged 55 years or older. There are 144 skilled trades in Ontario.
The Skilled Trades Panel is currently consulting on Phase 2 of its mandate, which will focus on classification and training in the trades. Those wishing to take part in the online consultation can visit: https://www.ontario.ca/page/skilled-trades-panel-consultations.
“The Building Trades Council welcomes Minister McNaughton’s legislative direction to protect the construction trades classification system,” said Patrick Dillon, business manager, Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Construction Council of Ontario supports the change.
“This marks a significant change from the previous legislative approach that would have seen skill sets erode electrical safety. IBEW is pleased to work with Government through the legislative process to ensure that any necessary amendments enhance the protection, growth and safety of Ontario’s electrical industry,” said James Barrie, executive secretary treasurer at IBEW.
“Builders and professional renovators know how important it is to reduce the stigma around skilled trades, simplify the system and make it easier to connect with the tradespersons we need to help address the housing needs of Ontario families, now and into the future,” said Joe Vaccaro, CEO, Ontario Home Builders Association.