For those who want to work in the skilled trades

By MPP Toby Barrett

Last winter I hosted a roundtable for local businesses. Attending was MPP Michael Parsa, then Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. One common theme prevailed: there is a lack of skilled labour and, in many cases, a lack of work ethic. This is something I realized several years ago during a whirl-wind tour of 50 businesses across Haldimand-Norfolk.

When we look at the jobs available in Haldimand-Norfolk, there are a tremendous number of skilled and unskilled positions. For example, during the growing and harvest season, there are many unskilled labour positions available at farms. As well, there are a lot of business owners, large and small, who need people in the trades—plumbers, electricians, welders, maintenance mechanics and the list goes on. There is no shortage of work here but rather a shortage of workers. As a result, we hire offshore workers for the seasonal positions at farms and subcontract workers for the skilled jobs. And the question remains, when the work is here, why do we have so many people without jobs?

We have people with post-secondary degrees and diplomas who are unemployed and secondary school students who do not work full-time summer jobs. Again, I ask the question why the unfilled jobs and why the unemployment?

For the past 15 years, tradespeople, employers and apprentices have been burdened by a mismanaged skilled trades system. In June, during Question Period, I asked Premier Doug Ford how the Ontario Government plans to modernize the skilled trades framework.

In response to my questioning, the Premier explained, “through our budget of 2019, we passed the Modernizing the Skilled Trades Apprenticeship Act, which will reduce red tape for employers and apprentices, streamline services and delivery and help promote the tremendous career opportunities that the skilled trades offer.”

It is projected that by 2021 one in five jobs will be in the skilled trades.

The Premier also announced the government’s plan to invest $18.1 million in pre-apprenticeship programs and $12.2 million in the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program.

The 2019 Ontario Budget set out the government’s vision for a modernized, client-focused apprenticeship and skilled trades system, which will be implemented through the following initiatives:

  • Establishing a new ministry-led governance framework through new legislation, Modernizing the Skilled Trades Apprenticeship Act, 2019 to replace the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009;
  • Encouraging employer participation in the apprenticeship system through a new financial incentive program to support employers to come together and train apprentices;
  • Modernizing service delivery in apprenticeship by developing a new client-facing digital system, including one-window digital portal for apprentices; and
  • Promoting apprenticeship and the skilled trades as a pathway choice for all students from kindergarten to Grade 12.

This integrated, multi-phased and sustainable approach highlights the province’s commitment to equipping more people with the skills needed to get quality jobs through apprenticeships.

As part of this modernization initiative, the government is appointing two new training and skills advisors to inform the minister, help engage industry and stakeholders, and help to implement some of the changes to the system.

Our government is working hard to modernize the skilled trades and apprenticeship system so employers can get the skilled workers they need, and people can get the training and skills they need to get quality jobs.

Toby Barrett is MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk