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Ontario updates apprentice support and governance model for skilled trades


June 10, 2019
By Peter Saunders
Photo courtesy Government of Ontario

June 10, 2019 – Last week, Ontario’s government passed the Modernizing the Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Act, which updates the province’s skilled trades governance model and support for apprentices.

With the legislation, the government is establishing a new system delivery model to replace the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT). The minister of training, colleges and universities will now be responsible for regulating the trades and their associated skills, activities and ratios.

A registrar, meanwhile, will be responsible for issuing credentials and certificates to apprentices, overseeing the compliance framework (e.g. appointing inspectors) and maintaining a public registry of certified tradespeople. The trades will no longer be classified as voluntary or compulsory, but there will be a requirement for certification to perform restricted activities, with compliance and enforcement modernized through a risk-based approach to ensure safety.

The minister will also appoint advisors to assist with the implementation of the new model, including engaging with industry and stakeholders to develop ‘portable’ skill sets, advise on the restricted activities and encourage participation by underrepresented groups in the trades, including women, Indigenous people and people with disabilities.

A new financial support program will be developed to encourage employers to train apprentices, with partnership opportunities through group sponsorship. This is intended to help small to medium employers (SMEs) participate by reducing their administrative and training costs and expanding access to talent, while also providing broader experience for apprentices to acquire and develop skills needed for certification. A new client-facing digital system will include a one-window portal for apprentices.

Leading up to this fall’s OCOT wind-down, membership fees for apprentices were eliminated, while annual journeyperson class fees were reduced by 50% to $60. The provincial government says total apprenticeships registrations are 11% higher than at the same time last year, while those within the construction sector are up 24%.

Finally, this fall, a marketing campaign is planned with the ministry of education to promote the trades to elementary and high school students, educators and parents.