Tony Dean, mandated by the provincial government to review the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT), has posted observations indicating the directions his research is taking to overcome the regulatory agency’s systems.
“I’m not going to satisfy everyone, but this Review is about building the stature and credibility of Ontario’s College of Trades,” he wrote. “In that sense, the public interest, alongside that of apprentices and tradespersons, should be paramount. Institutional and private interests are a healthy part of the mix but should not be perceived to predominate.”
He suggests the review will provide recommendations in four areas:
First, the trades and the College would clearly benefit from a process designed to review and update the Scopes of Practice (SOPs) for trades. Advice will be provided on how this might be accomplished and on the sort of elements that should be included in SOPs going forward. This might be done in combination with a review of opportunities to consolidate and prune the 156 trades currently lodged with the College (some of which are inactive). Some of the important aspects of such a review, which I think should leverage the expertise of College Trade Boards and industry or other stakeholder groups, are: opportunities to update descriptions of trades; refining Scopes of Practice; discussion between trades of overlaps in their SOPs; and finding better ways to ensure SOPs and training standards remain current.
In terms of the use of SOPs in the classification review process, I’m continuing to consider the potential for voluntary trades to select elements of their SoPs for the purpose of seeking compulsory status and vice versa. This might be an alternative to the current “all or nothing” approach to SOPs in the classification review process. This would in no way dilute current training or apprenticeship standards, which would remain in their full breadth. And I will emphasize that this idea is intended to maintain the integrity of the trades; that is, not to be taken to promote the concepts of “skillsets” or “sub-trading”, which I know have been controversial in the past.
Second, the process for reviewing the classification of trades as voluntary or compulsory would benefit from some attention. This must be broadly perceived as inclusive, transparent, evidence-informed and even-handed. This applies to the process—including onus and the degree of evidence available to decision-making panels, the criteria that guide decision-makers — and the way in which decisions are made. I am considering options in all of these areas, including the nature of the decision-making panel.
Third, there continues to be a great deal of interest in the now-cyclical process forreview of journeyperson to apprentice ratios, which currently apply to 33 trades. As with the trade classification process we have learned a lot from the first round of decision-making and it is broadly agreed that there are opportunities for improvement. As a starting point, we are looking at the origins and purpose of these ratios and the sort of criteria that would best reflect those purposes and desired outcomes. This process must also be seen to be inclusive, transparent, evidence-informed and even-handed. In this area, too, I’m looking at the process steps from end-to-end, including the way in which decisions are made.
Fourth, we are examining practices flowing from the College’s enforcement mandate. The focus here is on those activities which clash with previous Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) decisions, or with previous agreements made between workplace parties, on who-does-what on work sites. These clashes are proving to be disruptive and must be sorted out.
This is mostly a construction sector issue and one which, in some cases, clearly involves historical work jurisdiction interests between trade unions. I think this can be addressed without a full re-design of the College’s enforcement regime. In any event, the enforcement function could benefit from some advice from stakeholders on approaches to enforcement. Second, more work needs to be done to address the identified conflicts between the OLRB’s responsibilities and the College’s responsibilities. I am considering several options, including a potential role for the OLRB where College enforcement activities intersect with the OLRB’s responsibility to settle disputes on work jurisdiction.
None of these four areas are straightforward or simple to deal with. And all, to some degree, attract a mix of interest in doing the right thing from the College’s and public’s perspective, and some deeply held institutional interests.