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Ontario proposes changes to skilled trades and apprenticeship system


Ontario is introducing legislation to create a new government agency called Skilled Trades Ontario, which the province says will make the skilled trades and apprenticeship system more streamlined.

Skilled Trades Ontario would replace the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT).

Under the proposed legislation, Skilled Trades Ontario would become the province’s industry-informed training authority to lead the promotion, research and development of the latest apprenticeship training and curriculum standards.

It would also provide a one-window experience for client-facing services including apprentice registration, issuance of certificates and renewals, and conduct equivalency assessments all in one place with many services offered digitally.

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“Skilled trades workers are the engine of our economy,” says Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, training and skills development, in a statement. “Under the current system, responsibilities are shared between OCOT and the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development 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.”

Building a new Crown agency was recommended by the province’s Skilled Trades Panel in its first report. The panel includes Michael Sherrard as the chair, and industry representatives Jason Ottey, Melanie Winter, Shaun Scott and Melissa Young.

The panel is currently consulting the public on phase two of its mandate, which will focus on classification and training in the trades.

The ministry would 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 an inspector network that is already in place across the province.

Mathew Wilson, senior vice-president, policy and government relations for Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), says the news is welcome for manufacturers. “Apprenticeship programs hold the power to give the next generation the training they need to build the manufacturing sector’s output, productivity, and profitability,” he says.

“Manufacturers have been proactively advocating for new approaches to streamline apprenticeship processes and improve the training for skilled workers. The creation of Skilled Trades Ontario is an important step to address labour and skills shortages facing manufacturers by simplifying apprenticeship requirements and attracting new skilled workers to the sector.”

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.

“We welcome a new agency that takes a fresh approach and genuine interest in advancing Ontario’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system,” says – Stephen Hamilton, chair of the Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance (OSTA).

“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.”