The skilled trades are the backbone of our economy. That’s not an exaggeration. These workers literally lay the foundation, build, power, and maintain the infrastructure on which our economy runs. At home, at work, and in our daily lives, we rely on them to keep us moving forward.
As our economy changes and we move into the fast-paced, high-tech twenty-first century, skilled trades are in higher demand than ever. This is because change and growth means we need to build, service, and adapt our infrastructure. We can’t outsource the installation of bridges or the construction of factories, these are the building blocks of our economy.
Ontario’s current system just isn’t working well enough. We can’t afford to fall behind any further.
That is where the Ontario College of Trades comes in. The College is an innovative organization that will help our economy grow. It will do so by ensuring that we have enough skilled trade workers to meet market demand. Currently, the trade sector is fragmented, and no one is taking a hard look at the bigger picture. The College will provide that vision. It will develop industry-driven solutions to ensure the trade sector and our economy are ready for the future.
It will accomplish this through a number of strategies: consulting with industry, tradespeople, the public, and other interested stakeholders; establishing a process where independent panels decide whether to keep or adjust journeyperson to apprenticeship ratios based on industry feedback; and acting as a champion for the trades to promote opportunities that will give Ontario a competitive edge.
The College also has a very important role to play in deciding applications on compulsory certification, meaning which types of work will require a license. This decision is of utmost importance to employees, employers and consumers alike, as it impacts directly on the standards of training, safety, and consumer protection. It’s high time that these decisions be made by the employers, tradespeople, and consumers who will have full involvement in the College of Trades. Through the success of the College, the size of government in this area will be reduced as these important regulatory decisions will be moved away from the government bureaucracy and placed into the hands of industry.
Finally, by promoting the trades as a career of first choice, the College will nurture a new generation of skilled workers–many of whom will be embarking on a second or even third career. We need the skills and experience they bring with them. Some of these individuals may be seeking the challenge and reward of owning their own business; the trades are an excellent sector to pursue that dream.
In the end, a stronger trade sector means a stronger province. The Ontario College of Trades is an investment in the future: the future of our skilled trade labour force, and of our economy.
Patrick Dillon is the business manager and secretary treasurer of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario, and is a member of the Ontario College of Trades’ Appointments Council.