The issue of hiring apprentices has been an ongoing challenge for Ontario’s manufacturing industry.
Employers have often been reluctant to participate, due to the challenge of ensuring appropriate supervision and support to apprentices on site.
So we have been faced with a frustrating dilemma as businesses struggle to find and retain enough skilled workers to ensure apprentices get all the guidance and hours they require.
This was made worse when the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) was introduced in 2009. Its original purpose was to be an industry-driven regulatory body that would put the skilled trades on equal footing with other professions.
But it quickly went off the rails. The Daily Commercial News, a magazine for Ontario’s construction industry, has called OCOT a “bureaucratic nightmare” that became “the bane of both skilled tradespeople and industry employers.”
OCOT established high journeyperson-to-apprenticeship ratios that made it very difficult for young people to get a foothold in the trades. At the same time, it was creating a huge skills gap; as older workers retired, there were fewer and fewer qualified people available to replace them.
Fortunately, things are changing. Ontario’s new Progressive Conservative government recently introduced Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, which promises to eliminate OCOT.
Most importantly, it will reduce the journeyperson-apprentice ratio to 1:1. Now, businesses will be able to hire more apprentices. This is a big deal, especially for small manufacturers.
The change is long overdue. Ontario will need up to 85,000 new skilled workers in the next 10 years, as baby boomers retire. Opening up training opportunities will go a long way in bridging the skills gap and improving job prospects for the next generation.
The new legislation will help also give Ontario industries the multiskilled tradespeople they need as technology evolves.
This news should be encouraging to both employers and employees alike. It’s a clearer, simpler path to a stable workforce filled with skilled employees. The only thing to do now is get moving!