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OCOT — timeline of a college in the making

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by Daily Commercial News

“The Ontario College of Trades”, “OCOT”, “The College”, “The College of Trades”, since 2007, say any of those terms when speaking to a construction industry stakeholder and you were sure to touch a nerve, whether in passionate support or frustrated disdain of the concept.

“The Ontario College of Trades”, “OCOT”, “The College”, “The College of Trades”, since 2007, say any of those terms when speaking to a construction industry stakeholder and you were sure to touch a nerve, whether in passionate support or frustrated disdain of the concept.

The Daily Commercial News has covered OCOT’s journey, from the groundwork that set its creation, through the many debates in-between and to today, when it is officially accepting members. The following are 15 significant milestones in the OCOT story.

Summer 2007

Ontario Labour Relations Board veteran Tim Armstrong is appointed to lead a provincial review of compulsory certification in the skilled trades and its future.

The review is expected to cover issues such as health and safety, new apprentice registration and apprenticeship completion. At the time, Armstrong was expected to deliver his report with recommendations within six months.

May 2008

Armstrong’s review recommends that the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities consult with industry stakeholders to establish an all-trades governance body to deal with applications for compulsory certification status.

The review found a correlation between higher registration and completion rates and better health and safety performance in compulsory over voluntary trades.

September 2008

The province announces plans to establish a College of Trades. Ontario Labour Relations Board chair Kevin Whitaker is appointed as implementation advisor responsible for its formation and establishment. The province would like the college to explore issues such as safety and training rules for apprentices, journeymen-to-apprentice ratios, enforcement challenges and apprenticeship completion.

June 2009

Whitaker’s report calls for a three-phase, 27-month processes to get the College of Trades up and running.

In the first phase, a transitional board appointed by the province will appoint adjudicators to three-person ratio and compulsory status panels. Many in construction disagree with the staging of the review panels as the first step before creating the college itself.

October 2009

Bill 183, the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, passes on Oct. 27. It allows the college to be established and implemented in phases with a 2012 target date to be fully operational. The province believes the college will encourage more people to work in the trades, raise the industry’s profile and give industry a greater role in governance, certification and training.

November 2010

The Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) has started province-wide consultations to help decide the criteria to be used by its future compulsory certification and ratio review panel boards. The Ontario Electrical League calls for provincial building trades business manager Patrick Dillon’s resignation from the College’s transitional board of governors. Dillon says he will not give up his post.

May 2011

Decisions about the future of the Ontario College of Trades are hampered by a lack of research, says Hamilton based think-tank Cardus. The report, An Uneasy Case for Moving Trades from Voluntary to Compulsory Certification, expresses concerns surrounding the process by which Ontario’s skilled tradespersons “will require mandatory government certification in order to work.”

July 2011

Armstrong is appointed as the chair of the college’s appointments council. Some in the industry support the choice, while others had expected a more neutral figure in the political, management and labour spheres for the chair position. The province says Armstrong is the perfect choice to lead the appointments council.

November 2011

The construction industry has mixed reactions to
the appointments for the college’s board of governors
and the selection of Ron Johnson, deputy director of the Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario, as the college’s first chair.

Johnson says “it is a big responsibility” for himself and the governors to represent their respective trades.

February 2012

Armstrong’s term as chair of the OCOT appointments council is extended for another six months.

The Don Drummond commission report, which looked at reforms to Ontario’s public services, suggests an expanded role for OCOT, including a greater administrative role, once it is up and running.

April 2012

The college launches its first journeyperson to apprentice ratio review. It reviews Group A-1: Floor Covering Installer; and Group A-2: Hoisting Engineer: Mobile Crane Operator-Br1; Hoisting Engineer: Mobile Crane Operator; Hoisting Engineer: Tower Crane Operator.

May 2012

The majority of college stakeholders oppose new membership classes of voluntary tradesworker and compulsory tradesworker, added to the membership classes of apprentice, journeyperson and employer/sponsor.

College officials say they are working with organizations to address their concerns.

June 2012

The Ontario Construction Employers Coalition calls OCOT’s proposed membership fees an $84 million “tax grab” that should be scrapped after the college released a public consultation with proposed fees ranging from $50 to $600 annually.

MPP Kevin Flynn states that OCOT is here to stay in an interview with the Daily Commercial News.

October-November 2012

OCOT delivers its first ratio change recommendations
to Group 1-A: Floor Covering Installers and Group A-4: Cement Concrete Finisher; Cement Mason.

OCOT also unveils its membership fees which will range from $60 to $120 annually.

April 2013

OCOT opens its doors officially and its chair Ron Johnson states the college will serve its members and protect the public’s interest.

Sean Reid, chair of the Stop the Trades Tax campaign, states that he has seen very little from the college that indicates it is headed in the right direction.

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