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Ontario College of Trades will benefit consumers, tradespeople: Operating Engineers union

0 92 Labour

by Daily Commercial News

Reasonable people can disagree on how and by whom the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) should be funded — this is precisely why there’s been an open consultation process on such matters from the get-go — but the important role it will play should hardly be in dispute.

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:
Reasonable people can disagree on how and by whom the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) should be funded — this is precisely why there’s been an open consultation process on such matters from the get-go — but the important role it will play should hardly be in dispute.

Simply put, the OCOT is a North American first that will benefit skilled tradespeople and the general public as consumers.

When operational, the OCOT will be the first College of Trades in North America and the largest professional college in Ontario. It will put Ontario’s skilled tradespeople on an equal footing with doctors, nurses and teachers by giving them a professional college of their own. It will give them a voice in important public policy debates and empower them to shape the future paths of their industries.

Perhaps as equally important, the OCOT will also benefit consumers. Its investigatory and disciplinary function for complaints will serve as a means for consumers to hold unscrupulous contractors to account for shoddy craftsmanship, whereas they might currently be prevented from doing so through more costly and cumbersome legal alternatives.

In light of this function, it becomes easier to understand why certain construction contractors might be opposed to the OCOT.

The OCOT will also be charged with the crucially important task of attracting and recruiting the next generation of Ontario’s skilled tradespeople.

As is well known and oft cited, Ontario faces a looming worker shortage in the skilled trades.

The Construction Sector Council estimates that in the construction trades alone 100,000 new skilled tradespeople will be required between 2011 and 2019 to meet Ontario’s growing construction needs. The OCOT will be a champion of the trades, raising their profile and reaching out to young Ontarians to encourage them to pursue a career in the skilled trades.

Just as important, it will help ensure these future tradespeople reflect Ontario’s full diversity.

Industry has thus far woefully failed to attract and, more importantly, retain, the apprentices required to meet our future needs. Fortunately, the OCOT will help give the trades the status and organizational capacity to face these challenges.

Another major source of construction employer resistance to the OCOT is its responsibility for reviewing apprenticeship and certification requirements, which they fear will be maintained and raised.

Currently, an impartial panel of expert adjudicators is hearing submissions on apprenticeship ratios, and a similar process will be undertaken in the future with respect to certification requirements.

Employers have little to be concerned about regarding this process.

Whatever the result, all sides can be satisfied that the outcome will take into account all submissions and will be made in the industry’s and the public’s best interest.

Many tradespeople might feel frustrated by the fact that they will have to pay more for certification under the new OCOT.

This sentiment is understandable, but these fees ought to be seen as an investment in their careers.

The OCOT will raise the profile of the trades — and ultimately the earning potential of current and future tradespeople.

In 1928 Ontario led the way as the first Canadian province to introduce a statutory-based apprentice system.

In the same vein, Ontario is now leading the way with North America’s first College of Trades.

The OCOT is a bold step, but it’s one which should be celebrated.

Josh Mandryk
Law student for the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 793

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