Trades College Hits Back

Trades College Hits Back

The chairman of a controversial trades college in Ontario has hit back at criticism of his organization from construction industry employer groups.

The chairman of a controversial trades college in Ontario has hit back at intense criticism from the construction and other industries which has been leveled at his organization.

In an opinion piece published in Daily Commercial News, Ron Johnson, chairperson of the Ontario College of Trades and deputy director of the Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario argued the college was necessary in order for Ontario to attract and maintain a sufficient number of skilled tradespeople in order to meet its needs.

“In Ontario, the trade sector is fragmented, and no one has been looking at the bigger picture,” Johnson wrote, adding that by Conference Board of Canada estimates Canada will need more the 360,000 skilled trade workers by 2025 and possibly 560,000 by 2030.

Johnson wrote that his organization will put an end to the fragmentation of the trade sector.

“The Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) is an industry-driven organization bringing together leaders from the trades, as well as employers and the public, to examine and find solutions to the problems facing the trade sector. Part of its mandate will be ensuring that we’ve got skilled trade workers when and where we need them in the future economy,” he wrote.

Johnson said the College will accomplish this through a number of strategies, including consultation with employers, trade workers, the public, and other stakeholders. He says the College has created a process where independent panels can decide to keep or adjust journeyperson to apprenticeship ratios.

Ron Johnson

Ron Johnson, Image Credit: Chris So.

“The College will further act as a champion for the trades, promoting opportunities and attracting new talent to give our province a competitive edge,” he wrote.

Johnson also said the OCOT will empower consumers to protect themselves by providing tools to look up the qualifications of a tradesperson or report misconduct.

“A few bad actors can do a lot of damage to the industry’s reputation, and it’s in the best interest of employers and tradespeople to help prevent this,” he wrote. “The College won’t restrict legitimate and honest tradespeople in their work — but it will limit unscrupulous operators who break the rules, do unsafe work, and contribute to the underground economy.”

Created through legislation passed in 2009, the OCOT is a regulatory institution created to take a leadership role in provincial decisions regarding training across a range of apprenticeship categories in 157 skilled trades.

The College, however, has been the subject of intense criticism from employer groups over compulsory annual membership fees being levied on apprentices, tradespeople, employers and journeypersons – fees employer groups refer to as a ‘trades tax’ – as well as a perceived lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the college and a perceived failure on the part of the OCOT to lay out a vision for what tradespeople will get in return for their fees.

By Andrew Heaton
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