OCOT lives on.
Despite the announcement made in October 2018 concerning the impending termination of the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT), not much has changed. Although fee collection paused briefly after the news first broke, collections have since resumed — at reduced rates in some circumstances and waived entirely in others. The issuance or renewing certificates of qualification and other credentials, the undertaking of trade equivalency assessments, support for labour mobility through credential verification, and work site raids to check trade credentials have also continued.
Uncertainty over OCOT’s future is causing concerns among potential apprenticeship employers, a message that is being heard by public college educators. Not only does OCOT continue to hang over the heads of potential employers, they wonder about the future of apprenticeship regulation enforcement. When OCOT finally does shut down, will responsibility for the enforcement of apprenticeship rules simply be transferred to the newly named Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) from the former Ministry of Labour and Colleges and Universities? After all, the College of Trades was little more than an enforcement agency during its latter years, never a “College”. Could the hiring of apprentices trigger random workplace inspections that go beyond apprenticeship issues?
For the 24 public colleges across the province responsible for attracting and training a new generation of skilled trade workers, this could create a problem. They need a smooth transition from apprenticeship training to hiring, not more obstacles to overcome.
We need to digitize and simplify apprenticeship in Ontario,
— Mac Greaves
Heads of Apprenticeship Training committee
“We expect OCOT will be completely shut down next year (2020), at which point the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009 will be repealed and replaced by the Modernizing the Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2019,” the MLTSD told the Daily Commercial News. Although acknowledging that, “the College was not working for people,” and “contributed to the backlog by creating unnecessary and burdensome red tape for skilled trades,” the Ministry did not offer any specifics as to how apprenticeship enforcement procedures would be manifested in the future.
OCOT and its “burdensome red tape” is not the only concern for public college educators.
They cite the complexity of the entire apprenticeship process and the subsequent impact on employers.
“We need to digitize and simplify apprenticeship in Ontario,” says Mac Greaves, Chair of the Heads of Apprenticeship Training committee (HAT) and Associate Dean at two of Georgian College’s apprentice training campuses.
“It is still diabolically complicated, so riddled with layers. Even those who are in the system sometimes struggle to navigate it.”
Partly to blame for the continued complexities are the number of agencies that are, or have been, part of the process, and the fact that some of those agencies have changed titles or have had their roles modified.
“Digitizing, simplifying, and creating a seamless transition from not being an apprentice to being an apprentice, and for employers to sign apprentices, is a critical piece,” Greaves said.
“We’re now in the process of fixing it,” said the MLTSD when asked for comment by the Daily Commercial News.
They pointed out the recent creation on their website of “a new skilled trades landing page” as a first step. “We’re now in the process of developing a digital portal that will act as a one-stop shop for apprentices. This will include a simplified registration process, digitized training standards so that apprentices and sponsors can easily track progress through the portal.”
Continued feedback from Greaves and his public college associates will undoubtedly help the government prioritize the issues facing both aspiring skilled workers and their potential employers.
“Ontario lagged behind other jurisdictions in apprentice registrations,” the Ministry said.
“We know we must modernize the apprenticeship system, make it client-focused, and bring it out of the last century, into the digital age. That is exactly what we’re doing. These are key priorities.”