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Industry Perspectives: Why I’ve joined OCOT’s board of governors

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by Walter Pamic

It’s an appointment that seems to be raising eyebrows and questions.
Industry Perspectives: Why I’ve joined OCOT’s board of governors

Why would the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) appoint Walter Pamic to its board of governors? Better yet, why would Walter Pamic, once an outspoken critic of OCOT, want to join its board?

What could he possibly contribute, some wonder.

Two words: experience and perspective.

I've been around the skilled trades a long time.

Since the age of 12, I'd spend weekends with my father who ran a concrete forming company, building concrete foundations and walls.

I worked with my father through high school and during summers as a college student.

After graduating from Ottawa's Algonquin College, I considered pursuing a career in law enforcement, but the timing wasn't right. It was during the 1980s recession when police forces across Canada were cutting back. I realized the job opportunities weren't in policing, they were in the skilled trades and so began my lifelong career.

I started out as a truck driver, then an apprentice before becoming a certified master construction and maintenance electrician.

I was a member of IBEW Local 586 for over a decade. I've been a project manager, a Gold Seal certified estimator and now owner of an electrical services and general contracting business in Ottawa. That's a lifetime of skilled trades experience from both sides of the fence, as a union electrician and open shop business owner.

As the newest member of OCOT's board of governors, I'm joining a mix of professionals who also bring all kinds of experience.

The board includes an automotive technician, truck and coach technician, a college dean, a chartered accountant, a former teacher, a chef, a union executive, a former police superintendent and others. It's a board that wasn't always so diverse and that's why so many skilled tradespeople and business owners, myself included, were initially skeptical of the College.

When licensing fees increased dramatically for skilled tradespeople, they questioned the value. Both workers and contractors felt under represented by OCOT's initial governance structure.

Although 70 per cent of construction in Ontario is open shop, those workers and businesses didn't feel they had an opportunity for input. That's changing, and my goal is to be part of that change by providing another perspective.

As a business owner, students approach me weekly trying to get into the skilled trades. My advice to them is that post-secondary education is essential. Reading plans and specifications, communicating with engineers, architects and project managers takes a level of expertise and competency that goes beyond a high school education.

Strengthening training requirements will ensure our young skilled tradespeople have what it takes to compete, advance and support the changing needs of industry, whether its construction, industrial, the service or automotive sectors.

With the wave of baby boom retirements just beginning, businesses are struggling to find people with the right skills to replace them.

All the more reason why new approaches are needed to help solve the looming skilled trades shortage.

The question is, how soon can government, unions, industry and educators agree on the best way forward. There's no time to waste given the increasing role of the skilled trades in our future economy.

According to Skills Canada, as many as 40 per cent of jobs created in Canada this decade alone will be in the skilled trades.

Modern, multi-skilled tradespeople, equipped with a series of hard and soft skills are a must as technology quickly advances and our economy changes. This is the reality that dictates a change in the way the next generation is trained and mentored.

OCOT has a huge responsibility. It's not only about attracting more young people to the skilled trades, but making sure they're prepared for our changing work world. That's where I come in.

I look forward to working with my fellow board members and sharing my experience, expertise and commitment to help make that happen.

Walter Pamic, is a member of the OCOT board of governors. Send comments and Industry Perspectives column ideas to editor@dailycommercialnews.com.

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