As the president of the Stratford and Area Builders’ Association, I hear daily from local small business owners involved in the construction and renovation industry that they struggle to find and hire young people interested in pursuing the skilled trades as a career.
And instead of government doing something positive about this – they merely set up a new bureaucracy that gets in the way of encouraging young people from joining our industry.
The Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) was supposedly created to elevate the status of tradespeople in this province. Unfortunately, it has not lived up to its promise. Its leadership talks down to industry. There is a lack of transparency in how it operates and it is unaccountable in its decisions.
The result is that Ontario is still left with the highest journeyperson-to-apprentice ratios in all of Canada. This ratio makes it more difficult for employers to hire young apprentices and therefore makes it more difficult for young people to find work. OCOT now enforces these high ratio requirements with a full enforcement division. This in turn may have our youth turn out of province for work in this industry.
In order to pay for this new bureaucracy, tradespeople across Ontario now must pay $120 annually to OCOT in order to continue working legally in Ontario. Why? This fee was created with little justification for exactly what the money would be used towards or a real explanation by OCOT, on how they are promoting the trades. People working in the trades are becoming really frustrated.
This frustration towards OCOT came up during the provincial election. The Tories said they would abolish it and the Liberals said they would review OCOT.
Last month the Liberal Government appointed Tony Dean, the former head of the Ontario Public Service, to lead a review. Although the review is in its early stages, we have yet to see the complete details on how the review will proceed, let alone the outcomes that might result from the review.
At the very least, the review needs to visit areas outside of Toronto, so that tradespeople that pay into OCOT from all across Ontario, not just Toronto, have a voice in its future.
I have invited Tony Dean to visit us at SABA for a sit down meeting to hear the needs, challenges and realities our industry faces in Stratford and area.
People working in the skilled trades deserve better. A full review of OCOT, visiting urban, rural and northern areas in Ontario is a good place to start.
Stratford and Area Builders’ Association