TORONTO — Ontario construction stakeholders are praising the move by the Ford government on Oct. 21 to shift responsibility for training, skills and apprenticeships to the Ministry of Labour.
The Ontario Construction Consortium (OCC) issued a statement Oct. 22 that said shifting the portfolio from the former Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities will help strengthen the province’s training system.
“Labour Minister Monte McNaughton has a thorough understanding of the importance of the skilled trades to our Province’s economy”, said Phil Gillies, executive director of OCC, in the release. “He has been to the construction sites and to many of the union and contractor-sponsored training centres. He knows the system and has strong relationships with the players.”
McNaughton recently announced the creation of a Construction Advisory Panel.
We have concerns with this move to skill sets,
— Phil Gillies
Ontario Construction Consortium
“When the apprentices are on the job sites, and once they graduate to journeyman status, they will be dealing with the Ministry of Labour in most important aspects of their jobs — employment standards, health and safety, and labour relations”, said Gillies. “It makes perfect sense that their journey from registration all the way to being job ready should also fall under Labour.”
A statement from the Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario (ISCA) also mentioned the appointment of the advisory panel by McNaughton in praising the decision to expand his ministry’s responsibilities.
The ISCA said McNaughton is widely regarded by the industry as someone who cares about the portfolio and has strong relationships with both labour and employer groups in construction.
“This is someone who wants to be minister of labour, who cares about the industry, and who has a far better understanding of apprenticeship training and skills development than most of his colleagues,” said Ron Johnson, executive director of ISCA, in the release. “We are very happy about the addition of responsibility for training and skills development. This will be good for the industry.”
But both organizations urged McNaughton to rethink the plan to discontinue compulsory trades and introduce trades with narrowly defined “skill sets.”
“We have concerns with this move to skill sets,” said Gillies in the statement. “While well intentioned, it could in fact see apprentices rushed through shortened programs — leaving them unprepared for the realities of the job sites.
“It is our hope that Minister McNaughton will work with the associations in the construction sector who have knowledge and resources to inform his policies on training and apprenticeships.”
Johnson noted that B.C.’s adoption of skill sets in 2003 led to splintered trades and eventually the elimination of 11 of the 28 new programs that were created due to declining registrations and evidence that they were not providing apprentices with the proper training they need.
“Monte McNaughton is someone who understands that and will thoroughly consult with all industry stakeholders instead of blinding rushing to implement changes that could have disastrous consequences for the industry,” Johnson said in the release.