Ontario Construction News staff writer
Last week’s provincial budget is getting good reviews from the construction industry, especially for the focus on skilled trades training and digital innovation.
“Reducing barriers to development by cutting red tape, simplifying policies and modernizing and digitizing government services to streamline the approvals process is critical to increasing housing supply necessary to support demographic trends and improve quality of life,” said Richard Lyall, president at the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON).
“We have had a chronic undersupply of housing for a generation which has driven up costs.”
Through the government’s Skilled Trades Strategy, the budget also focuses on key themes that are crucial to enabling the trades to be considered a viable employment option for the next generation, such as simplifying the apprenticeship system and related career pathways as well as encouraging greater employer participation.
“We are heartened to see the government commit such extensive resources to the skilled trades in Ontario,” Lyall said. “This is a reflection of the province’s understanding of the importance of construction and the need for sufficient skilled trades supply over the next decade to facilitate the economic recovery and success of Ontario.”
On behalf of the Labourers’ International Union of North America, Joe Mancinelli, LiUNA International vice-president and regional manager for central & eastern Canada, commended the province for its “significant focus on skilled trades.”
“Working collaboratively with government and industry we are taking steps forward to amplify opportunities in the trades, expand training initiatives and build Ontario’s future skilled workforce,” Mancinelli said in a statement on Twitter.
“The implementation of the Skilled Trades Strategy is yet another example of this government’s commitment to the men and women who are at the root of community building.”
The province also got two thumbs up from the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA).
“We are delighted that funding increases make it possible for more of our member companies to take on and train skilled workers and apprentices, especially now during Ontario’s economic recovery,” said Stephen Hamilton, PCA public affairs Ontario director.
“Today’s budget investments keep the focus where it should be: providing more opportunities for people to get trained and ready for careers in the skilled trades while recognizing and supporting the needs of ALL construction employers, specifically those that are progressively unionized.”
Skills Ontario is hopeful that aspects of the budget will remove barriers to growth and create jobs – especially the $100 million dedicated funding in 2020–21 through Employment Ontario for skills training programs to help more workers and job seekers get advice, training and other assistance.”
The government is also “modernizing the province’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system through Ontario’s Skilled Trades Strategy, which includes work to break the stigma around skilled trades, simplify the system and encourage employers to sponsor and hire apprentices.”
“The pandemic has created many challenges, and we applaud the Ontario government’s leadership during these difficult times. While proficiently handling these unprecedented circumstances, the government also continues to demonstrate strong action on the promotion of skilled trade and technology careers,” said Ian Howcroft, CEO of Skills Ontario.
“With the focus on filling the skills gap and simplifying the system, we can have even more reach and impact and continue to build our future skilled workforce. Skills Ontario’s long-standing partnership with the government allows us to promote these lucrative and rewarding careers to young people.”
Ontario Budget 2020 includes a record $187 billion in spending and provides historic levels of infrastructure investments over the next several years. The budget is aimed at economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, including:
- Investing $21 million this year in a new Achievement Incentive Grant (for employers) to encourage small- to-medium-sized employers to train apprentices towards program completion and trade certification.
- Supporting business participation by investing $20 million in 2020–21 for a new Group Sponsorship Grant to encourage small-to-medium-sized employers to come together to provide a full scope of training and on-the-job mentorship for apprentices.
- Establishing a new Skills Development Fund, which will provide $30 million, over two years beginning in 2020–21, to support a blend of operational and capital enhancements for non-college training providers, businesses and associations that train apprentices.
- Planned infrastructure investments over the next 10 years totalling $142.9 billion, including $13.6 billion in 2020–21.
“This budget recognizes the crucial role of skills training in ensuring workers have the right skills for jobs of the future,” Hamilton concluded. “And those jobs and opportunities exist right now in construction, where many workers have been working safely throughout the pandemic to build critical infrastructure and support Ontario’s economy.”