The Ontario College of Trades was supposed to help with Ontario’s training and apprenticeship problem given the province’s well-documented deficiencies on that score. Yet it is mired in controversy. So much so that a review has already commenced on the actions of its short life thus far.
Instead of having an institution making a positive contribution to youth facing daunting skill and employment challenges, it has been reduced to a squabble over jurisdictional disputes, punitive fees on workers with no apparent benefit, and a new enforcement regime harassing an already overburdened construction sector with additional restrictive requirements on who can be hired and what work they can perform. And it could get much worse. According to the London Economist, excessive occupational regulation “reduces mobility and makes it harder for workers to change careers or earn extra income.”
Ontario already has the most restrictive apprenticeship criteria in Canada with respect to the ratios of apprentices to journeypersons. This is clearly at odds with where the economy needs to go and helping young people get there. Bizarrely absent of any economic or safety justification for increasing occupational regulatory requirements, the College appears to having fallen back on a purported need to increase safety and consumer protection. This is wrong-headed. First, consumers are amply protected with pre-existing consumer protection measures. Second, there is no correlation between occupational licensing and improving health and safety outcomes.
In the construction industry, the focus is now on preparing for the ensuing mass of potential litigation concerning fights over who can do what work. Further, many are preparing to fight the further certification of trades and skills which would further restrict who can work in certain fields. As such, considerable resources are expended on everything except creating opportunities for young people and clearing the path through the maze that is to be found in entering skilled trades and finding job opportunities to learn. It is a waste in economic terms and a failure for young people. Hopefully the review focuses on the public interest and re-purposes the College to eliminate barriers for skilled trades rather create them. We will be advocating for nothing less for our members.