OSTA, RESCON, PCA support government’s $90 million plan to close skilled trades gap

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Reaction was quick and positive after the provincial government announced plans to promote skilled trades careers at schools.

The Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance (OSTA), which represents companies that employ thousands of skilled trades workers, says the $90 million funding commitment announced by Labour Minister Monte McNaughton and Education Minister Stephen Lecce will help tackle a number of critical pinch-points in the skilled trades system, including promotion, early skills development, the information gap, and providing enhanced apprenticeship incentives.

Also, the strategy will go a long way in encouraging people to explore all of the different career opportunities that are available in the trades.

“These broad-based investments will make a long-term impact on the skills gap in Ontario,” said Patrick McManus, OSTA chair.

“As Ontario’s skilled labour shortage reaches an all-time high, it’s more important than ever to invest in promoting these careers and improving accessibility to training. This will ensure the next generation of workers is equipped with the critical skills necessary for our job market.”

The OSTA recently commissioned a report entitled Examining Employer Incentives in Ontario’s Skills Training System. The report calls for greater supports for employers, given that they are largely responsible for promoting, training, and mentoring skilled trades workers.

“We are pleased the Ontario government listened and acknowledged the important contribution that employers make,” added McManus. “Employers are the gatekeepers, trainers and mentors who make it possible for aspiring tradespeople to achieve their career goals.”

The Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA) also welcomed the announcement.

“The province truly is moving the ball forward by addressing the skilled trades shortage from many different directions,” said Karen Renkema, vice president, Ontario at PCA. “Employers should be recognized for the central role they play in equipping apprentices with skills that are a must in today’s economy.”

However, Renkema said she is concerned that financial incentives tied to the hiring of specific apprentices will benefit few employers and could be unfair to some workers.

“Workers who pursue the skilled trades as a career choice later in life, should not be put at a disadvantage,” she said.

“We believe employers should receive the same level of encouragement to take on apprentices, no matter what their age. It shouldn’t be an either/or approach. While the province is taking steps to attract workers to the trades earlier in their careers, this will not happen overnight. Employers who strive to attract any type of skilled trades worker and apprentice should be recognized for their investments in training, regardless of their apprentice’s background or age.”

The Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) also voiced support, calling the announcement is a “tremendous investment being made into the province’s Skilled Trades Strategy and “great leadership” by Ministers McNaughton and Lecce.

Ian DeWaard, provincial director, Christian Labour Association of Canada agreed.

“Minister McNaughton and this government are delivering on their promise to promote careers in the skilled trades and apprenticeship,” he said.

“This latest initiative smartly targets the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), and also incentives and supports employers who register young workers into apprenticeship opportunities. These investments are the right kind of programs to demonstrate to youth that a skilled trade is a stable, high earning vocation for life.”

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