Industry stakeholders are applauding the recent announcement that Ontario’s chief prevention officer (CPO) George Gritziotis will become the new registrar and CEO of the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) and are hopeful he will make changes to move the College forward.
"I'm really sad to see George leave but I'm really happy to see where he's gone," Ontario Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn told the Daily Commercial News.
"There's only a handful of people that I think could fill that role and hit the ground running and George is clearly one of them."
During his tenure as CPO, Flynn said Gritziotis moved the health and safety file forward, in particular, working to reduce fatalities and implementing the working at heights program.
According to Flynn, he "brought together labour and business in a way that perhaps they hadn't worked together before.
"The College of Trades is an organization that has yet to reach its full potential and there's a lot of good reasons for that. One of them is it's only five years old," explained Flynn.
"It still has its critics and with the work that he is able to do, I think George is going to be able to mitigate a lot of those criticisms and is going to be able to focus on the positive and move the organization along."
Don Gosen, chair of the board of governors for OCOT, stated Gritziotis will take on the new role effective Oct. 16, replacing outgoing CEO and registrar David Tsubouchi, who announced his retirement this past June.
"With George's leadership, OCOT has an opportunity to make Ontario a leader in skills development"
Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance
Leaders of provincial construction associations agree Gritziotis is well qualified for the position.
Ian Cunningham, president of the Council of Ontario Construction Associations, said Gritziotis is a "first class choice" with a wealth of experience stemming from his previous position as founding executive director of the Construction Sector Council and as CPO with the Ministry of Labour.
"I think all that depth of experience would have put him head and shoulders above any other candidate," said Cunningham.
"The interesting thing about George in his position as chief prevention officer is that he had the approval and the confidence of virtually every stakeholder both on the labour side and on the management side."
"He was passionate about health and safety and I think he will carry that passion over to the College and be passionate about apprenticeship and the trades."
David Frame, director of government relations for the Ontario General Contractors Association, pointed out that Gritziotis was appointed to the position of CPO with the mandate to establish a provincial occupational health and safety strategy after Tony Dean released a review of the system in 2010. In his new position, Gritziotis will be dealing with another Tony Dean report, this time focused on OCOT.
"OCOT is now in a position where they have their own Tony Dean report, plus legislation and, quite frankly, the College has been reluctant to acknowledge or embrace the changes that Dean and the legislation have put forward," said Frame.
"It (the College) needs a leader who understands and buys into the needs and is experienced in change management. George has both of those attributes...some very important changes have to come to the College of Trades if they are going to be relevant. If his mandate is to implement the Tony Dean report, we will be very supportive of that work."
Sean Reid, vice-president of member relations for the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA), said PCA has always enjoyed a positive relationship with Gritziotis and he hopes that will continue.
"George is taking the helm of the College at a big moment for our industry," Reid stated in an email. "There are a lot of significant issues and opportunities coming down the pipe over the next year alone. We have no doubt he will be able to hit the ground running."
In his previous role as CPO, Gritziotis was familiar with the opportunities and challenges in safety training and was open to collaboration with employer communities of all sizes across Ontario, said Joe Vaccaro, chair of the Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance.
"In his new role, George will have to consider collective agreements, labour relations and labour mobility as part of policy making," said Vaccaro. "With George's leadership, OCOT has an opportunity to make Ontario a leader in skills development by modernizing outdated training methods and improving promotion of trades as a rewarding career."
Patrick Dillon, business manager for the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario, said there is a definite tie between proper highly skilled tradespeople and safety in the construction sector. With his experience as CPO, Gritziotis is aware of that.
"I believe going forward, in the big picture, if we do the right things around skills training, and that means training to the highest bar, not lowering the bar, the automatic outcome of that will be improved safety. If you have improved safety you have improved productivity," explained Dillon. "That bodes well for the College and I think George will deliver on that."
Change will take time and require support from the industry, he noted.
"I don't think anybody should expect that Mr. Gritziotis is taking over the College of Trades and in the next six months we're all going to be happy," Dillon said.
"We're all going to have to get behind the registrar and the College and if we do that, it's in the best interest of the economy and the province of Ontario. In particular it's in the best interest of the tradespeople."