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IBEW weighs in on Ontario apprenticeship reform

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by DCN News Services

TORONTO — The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Construction Council of Ontario (IBEW CCO) has reported through its website on the first of two half-day workshops being undertaken by the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development to reform the province’s apprenticeship system.
IBEW weighs in on Ontario apprenticeship reform

The first meeting was held on June 15, with almost 300 people in attendance, noted the IBEW political action statement, and the next will be on July 25.

Stakeholders in attendance represented unions (both construction and industrial), employers, employment adjustment agencies (who pair employers with apprenticeship applicants), the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) and the Ministry of Labour, amongst others, IBEW said.

John Grimshaw, IBEW executive secretary treasurer, attended the initial meeting and will be attending the second, the report indicated.

"We are very glad we are being consulted, and remain cautiously optimistic that this exercise is about strengthening the apprenticeship system in Ontario, not weakening it," he commented.

The IBEW CCO report indicated that the IBEW has strong apprenticeship completion ratios and that the union advocates that its system should be fully adopted outside of the union sphere.

"Colleges Ontario wants to change the process so that all of the classroom learning comes first," IBEW noted.

"The current system begins with hands-on learning, with classroom sessions scheduled in as the apprentice progresses. While the schooling-first system will create a great financial windfall for the colleges, the lack of hands-on experience at the right time can result in a low transition rate into actual apprenticeships. Some students are great with theory, only to find they don't like the physical requirements of the job."

"If Ontario wants more young people to make a skilled trade their first career choice, make it attractive to them," commented Grimshaw. "You have to raise the standards, not lower them. People see higher standards as a sign of value."

Referring to the Ontario College of Trades, Grimshaw added, "Proper enforcement of the new OCOT Compliance Policy will also be essential. If unscrupulous employers who abuse apprentices are caught and fined, gradually the culture will change and people will ensure proper safety, training, and career progress for apprentices."

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