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Ontario sprinkler trade reclassified compulsory

Lindsey Cole
Ontario sprinkler trade reclassified compulsory

The Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) has anounced that come Feb. 2, 2017 the sprinkler and fire protection installer trade will be reclassified as compulsory, which to some in the industry is welcome news after decades of trying to make it official.

"It’s been a long time coming. In our industry, labour and management worked on this for many of years, decades actually," says Greg Mitchell, business manager for UA Local 853 Sprinkler Fitters of Ontario.

"I speak solely for our industry when I say we’ve been trying for decades to gain compulsory status with the different ministries. There never was criteria established to weigh whether a trade should be compulsory status or not. That was one of the roles of the college right from the beginning. There is a process now whether it’s got some hiccups in it or not."

On April 23, 2014, in a split decision, an independent review panel decided the trade should be reclassified. It was the first to undergo a trade reclassification review.

"The process came forward because of concerns expressed by (the) industry itself, consumers and others — people that are most impacted by this like fire protection services, first responders. They themselves advanced the argument that it was essential for safety," Royden Trainor, the College’s director of policy and programs explains.

"The process itself is brand new for Ontario. In the past, whether a trade became compulsory or not, how that happened was an enigma wrapped in a mystery. It was a very closed process."

However, in this instance "no matter where people were on the issue, they had an opportunity to participate in an open and public process," he adds.

According to a previous Daily Commercial News article in 2014, there were about 2,000 journeypersons who held a Certificate of Qualification in the sprinkler and fire protection installer trade, but were currently not members of the College.

On Feb. 2, 2015 the two-year implementation period came into effect, with the first year including a one-year Certificate of Qualification exam exemption for qualified individuals who do not have a Certificate of Qualification in the trade and who have a Certificate of Apprenticeship or have qualifications and experience that are equivalent to a Certificate of Apprenticeship.

"We do need to allow time for people to get ready to do this. We need people to build this into their own construction cycle. We want to be sure that nobody is caught by surprise on Feb. 2, 2017," adds Trainor.

"We still appreciate though that this transition could be difficult for some folks who may be exceptionally qualified, and they’ve got employers that are going to validate that they’re exceptionally qualified, they’ve got 20 years of experience, but an exam is going to be such a radical change for them that it may be a challenge."

Ultimately he states the College is going to "grandparent the process" but that "they will still have to go through an assessment."

This does not apply to Red Seal standards he clarifies.

"Anyone who wants the Red Seal standard will still have to write an exam and after the two year period the Red Seal standard will be the only standard," he says.

When the classification changes entirely, those in the sprinkler and fire protection installer trade will need to be members in good standing in one of the following classes in order to work legally: The Apprentices Class, Journeyperson Candidates Class or Journeypersons Class issued by the College.

"In a number of ways I think what it (the classification) really has done, it has increased an overall understanding of the professionalism of the trade itself. But more importantly it puts safety as a primary and fundamental element of this trade and the work that they do," adds Trainor.

"One of the best ways to mitigate risk…is to ensure at the very first that the person doing the work is qualified."

For Mitchell it elevates the status of the trade.

"For the individual tradespeople, it gives them a license with more validity to it and I believe opens the door for more training," he explains.

"One of the things we noted was, when people think about a sprinkler system they look up above their head in the office…and think that that’s all we’re talking about, but we’re actually talking about a vast array of fire protection systems including heavy industrial. Compulsory certification is not about putting barriers up to people doing particular trades. This isn’t about keeping someone from doing their job, this is about making sure that the people who are doing the job are qualified and that they have access to training to become qualified."

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