Ontario construction stakeholders seem to be unanimous in praising recent measures announced by the provincial government to promote skilled trades to young people, but there is growing curiosity as to when the government will unveil further plans for the construction. new Skilled Trades Ontario (STO).
The measures announced on November 24 by Minister of Labor, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce would be a response to recommendations contained in the Young apprenticeship counselors report, released the same day.
Government to spend an additional $ 90 million over three years to promote skilled trades to youth, including $ 2.9 million to expand the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) for high school students .
The government will increase spending by $ 77 million per year for its employer success incentive program and pre-apprenticeship training and will continue its marketing campaign to encourage employers to hire more apprentices and reach out to parents and parents. potential apprentices. Participants in the pre-apprenticeship program may also receive living allowances for costs such as rent and childcare.
“Things are starting to take shape,” said Ian Cunningham, President and CEO of the Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA). “There is still a lot of work to be done and it cannot be done overnight, but the government has done a pretty good job of trying to hone the skilled trades and attract more young people to careers in the trades. skilled trades.
“Minister McNaughton has helped create tremendous momentum to close the skills gap in Ontario,” said Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance President Patrick McManus. “Today’s announcement on skills development and promotion in schools will make careers in the skilled trades more visible, especially to those who have historically been under-represented in our industry. “
OYAP now has 63 recruiters who visit more than 800 schools to reach school-aged children. The government will also spend $ 2 million to host skilled trades career fairs across the province starting this fall.
LIUNA International Vice President Joseph Mancinelli said in a statement that he welcomed these measures and added, “With a strong focus on empowering our future workforce, it is imperative that we work collaboratively to enhance education and exposure to the skilled trades at an early age and highlight the vast opportunities and benefits of this viable career path.
Erich Schmidt, director of public affairs for the Ontario General Contractors Association, noted that the government recognizes the role that “influencers” such as parents, school guidance counselors and basic teachers can play in promoting trades.
Jim Hogarth, president of the Ontario Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council, and Ian DeWaard, provincial director of the Christian Labor Association of Canada, also issued statements of support.
Karen Renkema, Ontario vice-president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada, said the government was “getting things done,” but warned that the government’s focus on young people disadvantaged workers who join the trades later. in life.
The government noted that the average age of people entering the trades is 29 years old.
Cunningham described the typical career path of apprentices before they enter the skilled trades, moving from school to other jobs, and called it a “lost decade”.
“Parents need to be convinced that being an electrician, carpenter or sheet metal worker is an appropriate career choice for their child,” he said.
One of the three young apprenticeship counselors, Jennifer Green, highlighted five barriers to recruiting young people into the trades, as noted in her report, and said the actions taken by the government reflected “the majority of our recommendations.”
Schmidt also noted, “We have worked closely with the government throughout its consultations and you see the results right here. “
The government statement said the STO, the new regulator replacing the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT), will take more action to promote skilled trades when it launches in January. Two observers, Cunningham and Ian Howcroft, CEO of Skills Ontario, acknowledged that there was uncertainty in the sector given that the STO was only a month away from launch and few details on its launch. administration have been published.
Cunningham said he heard STO will launch on January 2.
OCOT’s current CEO and Registrar, George Gritziotis, will not transfer to STO. A government source said there would be an announcement of the new CEO and other operational details in early January.
The government statement recognizes that Skills Ontario has been a good partner in promoting the skilled trades and Howcroft said, “We hope we find the way forward and that they build on what Skills Ontario has been doing for over 30 years. has grown, and the government has invested more and more support in us over the past two or three years.
“There is an opportunity for a great mesh,” said Howcroft, referring to STO.
“The last thing I think would be good for the system is to create competition and create duplication and duplication and more confusion.”