Support Ontario Youth helps companies find apprentices and hire talent

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By Angela Coldwell

Special to Ontario Construction Report

Many small subcontractors want to attract talent to grow their organization. However, on-site work, managing payroll, and developing client relationships leaves a small and medium enterprise (SME) little time to recruit. Likewise, as more high school graduates and adults look to pursue a trade, many are unsure of how to begin and who to contact for guidance.

Support Ontario Youth (SOY) is a government-funded service which serves as the conduit between the Ministry of Labour, Skilled Trades Ontario, apprentices, and employers. As a Group Sponsor, they work with both union and non-union organizations to match and place apprentices. Group sponsorship is a model which allows a third-party to manage the registered training agreement (which can be onerous administratively) and other responsibilities related to a company finding and registering an apprentice. They complete the human resource tasks required to add a new apprentice to the workforce at no cost so that a SME can focus on on-boarding and training.

Government expands funding for Ontario Youth Apprentice Program

“We register apprentices on behalf of employers. Typically, in the apprenticeship pathway, the employer and sponsor are the one in the same; we simplify the process by taking on the sponsorship role which allows the employer to focus on hiring and training their apprentice,” said Melanie Winter, the executive director of SOY. “There is a lot of administration in the apprenticeship pathway which is a huge burden especially for small to mid-size contractors within the trades”

For employers

  1. An employer partners or joins Support Ontario Youth and identify their employment needs.
  1. Support Ontario Youth examines its pre-screened applicants.
  2. The best suited candidates are contacted by SOY and a phone screening occurs to ensure the individual meets the employer’s needs. For example, if tools or training certificates are required, only the applicants who meet the criteria are shortlisted.
  3. The shortlist of eligible candidates is sent to the employer.
  4. The employer (or their HR department) performs interviews.

Once the applicant is chosen, the employer notifies SOY who will be hired and their start date. SOY then completes all paperwork and coordinates the apprentice’s Registered Training Agreement with Skilled Trades Ontario.

The employer is responsible for training.

As the apprentice reaches milestones and completes block training, SOY notifies the employer and apprentice of the provincial and federal grants and scholarships for which they are eligible. For example, if your SME has less than 500 paid employees, $5,000 and $10,000 grants offset the costs of hiring and training first-year apprentices.

For apprentices

Apprenticeship applicants complete two assessments which are used to determine if there is a fit for the skilled trades.  The first is a personality assessment to determine which trade and what type of working environment the applicant is best suited, such as preference for working indoors vs outdoors or collaboratively vs independently. The second assessment is one of critical thinking and reasoning.

Together, these allow for an individual to be suitably matched both to a trade and then to an employer.

SOY’s experienced team guide all stages of the apprenticeship process. This includes advising applicants through the initial process of attaining safety certificates, writing a trades-specific resume, submitting relevant documents (those needed both for securing employment and also for the registration process), and recommending how to gain additional field experience prior to being hired.

SOY has experienced journeypersons on staff to mentor and support individuals as they navigate the industry and attend in-school levelled training. This can be especially important for applicants who are the first in their family to pursue a skilled trade. Questions regarding certification, their two-to-five-year apprenticeship program, how to budget for school, and how apply for EI are common. Mentors are also available to assist with competency questions during their in-school levelled training, providing a safe space for students to clarify concepts.

In addition, SOY offers a free one-day Tools in the Trades Bootcamp throughout Ontario to adults 18+ looking to try a construction, industrial, or motive power trade. Led by qualified instructors, attendees receive a free starter toolkit valued at $250, complete hands-on training exercises, meet with potential employers, and learn valuable networking, job-seeking and employability skills focused on helping them land a job in the trades.

As of Nov. 30, SOY has supported 830 apprentices total since inception, with 48 becoming journeypersons.

Number of Tools in the Trades participants:

  • Total number of Boot Camp participants (and counting): 2,952 participants
  • 2021-22: 1,450 participants
  • 2022-23: 1,254 participants
  • 2023-24: 925 participants (to end of November)

Under the group sponsor model, apprentices can move from one SOY employer to another SOY employer with no administrative burden because their registered training agreement (RTA) lies with SOY. If the apprentice moves on to a new employer, their RTA would need to be transferred or they would have the option to join SOY’s membership and allow the support to continue for the benefit of the apprentice and the new employer.

For more information visit supportontarioyouth.ca or contact Melanie Winter (melanie.winter@supportontarioyouth.com).

Support Ontario Youth and Tools in the Trades Bootcamp are active across multiple social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, X, TikTok, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

Angela Coldwell is founder of Honour the Work, Toronto.

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