Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s minister of labour, training and skills development, says his mission is clear: to get more young people into the trades.
The new tools and equipment grant is one method of giving apprentices a head start as they begin careers in the skilled trades during a difficult time.
Applications are now being accepted for the non-repayable Ontario Tools Grant that was initially announced in May.
“Anything we can do to help apprentices along their journey I’m going to do,” McNaughton told the Daily Commercial News.
“We’re ending the Loans for Tools and pivoting to the Grants for Tools program. This is really about easing the financial burden on apprentices.”
The grant will provide $2.5 million in 2020-21 and $7.5 million in 2021-22, allowing new, eligible apprentices to purchase tools, equipment, protective equipment (PPE) and clothing required for their trade.
Eligible apprentices can receive up to $1,000. Those in the construction and industrial sector trades will receive $600, those in the motive power sector trades will receive $1,000 and service sector trades will receive $400. All eligible apprentices will receive the grant.
To be eligible, apprentices must have completed their level one training on or after April 1; have an active, registered training agreement; and have been registered as an apprentice for at least 12 months.
“Apprentices have to be a resident of Ontario, they have to be legally entitled to work in Canada, they must be a newly registered apprentice and they have not received a loan in the same trade,” McNaughton added.
The provincial government will also forgive more than $10 million in outstanding loans for thousands of apprentices who participated in the Loans for Tools program, which allowed them to buy tools, equipment, clothing, manuals and code books and PPE required for their trade. About 19,000 apprentices who took part in the program owed an average of $495.
“The cost of the outstanding loans is $10.6 million which we have wiped out and the Tools Grant will be $10 million so it’s about a $20 million financial boost to the apprentices overall,” said McNaughton.
When asked if the grant was in response to the pandemic McNaughton said it was always his intention to move ahead with the Grants for Tools program.
“COVID-19 certainly accelerated certain measures coming forward like this one,” he said.
“It’s mission critical that we get more young people into the skilled trades. I’m really focusing on ending the stigma, simplifying the apprenticeship system and encouraging businesses to take on more apprentices. We thought it was important as we begin the economic recovery to support apprentices.”
McNaughton said he recognizes the skilled trades has been one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic and even before the pandemic, the sector was facing labour shortages.
“There are thousands of jobs going unfilled as we speak every single day in Ontario…thousands of those are in the skilled trades,” McNaughton said. “We know they’re exciting and lucrative and it’s an opportunity in many cases for tradespeople to be their own boss.
“The skilled trades are going to build the future of Ontario as they have built the past,” McNaughton added. “We know one in three journeypersons are over the age of 60 and in the next five years one in five jobs in Ontario are going to be in the skilled trades, so it’s critical that we have a highly trained workforce to fill these jobs.”
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