Recently I had the privilege of representing the Ontario College of Trades (the College) at the inaugural Great Lakes Economic Forum in Chicago.
The purpose of the forum was to explore the benefits of governments and corporations within the Great Lakes region working together to promote skilled trades and to address our mutual labour needs.
The event brought together a number of leaders from the U.S. and Canada, including Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, Canada's U.S. Ambassador Gary Doer, American Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman and other leaders from the Great Lakes region to share ideas and insights to help shape economic policy, boost the region's competitive edge and secure its long-term success.
Attending as the only regulator of the skilled trades from Canada, I was given the opportunity to speak about our mandate at the College, as well as all the things we are doing to modernize and promote the skilled trades industry in Ontario.
One topic, which garnered significant interest from conference attendees, was the College's Trade Equivalency Assessment (TEA) process and how it could be used as a model for other jurisdictions as they look to enhance labour mobility within the region. The TEA process assesses the skills and training of a skilled trades professional from outside Ontario looking to gain access into the province's skilled trades industry.
Candidates can apply from anywhere in the world. If they meet the training requirements of a particular trade, he or she will qualify to apply for certification in that trade. It's a fair, straightforward system to gain access into the Ontario skilled trades industry.
I also had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion with Frank Peters of the Illinois Electrical Contractors' Association, Peter Creticos, founder, president and executive director of the Institute for Work & the Economy, and Baker & McKenzie's Jennifer Partee, on workforce development, labour mobility and promotion of the skilled trades as a viable career option.
I made the point that the College believes the trades should be inclusive, and that we are reaching out to women, youth, new Canadians, Aboriginal Peoples, and to people looking to change careers. We believe that a career in the skilled trades should be more readily available for everyone.
The opportunities are there. According to the Ontario government, almost one in five new jobs in this province over this decade is expected to be in trades-related occupations.
That's why the Great Lakes Economic Forum was a great opportunity for the College to push for the public and private sectors to come together, break down bureaucratic barriers, and build a process that enables the Great Lakes region to work together to increase labour mobility.
Here in Ontario, we've long had American tradespeople come up to work on various job sites, and our tradespeople have gone down to the U.S. to work as well. It's a great relationship, but it's an ad-hoc process, designed for temporary fixes.
The challenge is to create a more permanent process that allows for greater workforce mobility within the region. Not only would this process foster job creation and economic growth, it would allow us to help each other in the case of natural disasters and other emergencies that endanger public safety.
The United States and Canada have the largest and most comprehensive trade relationship in the world, and the Great Lakes region is a huge part of that relationship.
The Ontario College of Trades wants to strengthen that relationship, tear down barriers to economic growth and make the North American economy even stronger.
David Tsubouchi is Ontario College of Trades CEO and registrar. Send comments or Industry Persepctives column ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.