The Ontario government has announced more funding and programming to boost recruitment of young people into the skilled trades.
Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce announced the steps at an automotive training centre in Whitby this morning, with McNaughton stating the new measures are a response to the recommendations of Ontario’s Apprenticeship Youth Advisors, whose report was also released today.
McNaughton said the government will be spending an additional $90 million over three years to promote the skilled trades to young people; allocating an additional $2.9 million, for a total of $20 million annually, to the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP); and boosting OYAP’s roster of recruiters to 63 recruiters across 800 schools.
“We need more young people to join the trades because these are good jobs,” stated McNaughton. “By 2025 here in Ontario, this is where one in five jobs will be.
“Ontario’s trades are the backbone of our economy. More young people need to know that a job in the trades opens doors to bigger paycheques, with a pension and benefits.”
McNaughton noted the government will run an annual advertising campaign, with ads aimed at students and their parents, and that starting next year the government will host skilled trades career fairs across Ontario.
There will also be a boost in spending, to $28 million annually, to provide free training, particularly for marginalized youth, women and Indigenous people. McNaughton said funding for the province’s Skilled Trades Strategy is now $1.5 billion, to be spent between 2020 and 2024.
McNaughton also outlined how the province is simplifying and increasing financial aid for apprentices. They can now receive up to $4,200 while they complete eight weeks of in-class learning, covering such the costs as food, transit passes, accommodation expenses and child care.
On the employer side, the province is offering up to $17,000 per person for hiring apprentices from underrepresented groups.
One of the Apprenticeship Youth Advisors appointed in 2020, Jennifer Green, stated their recommendations followed six months of consultation that included conducting over 90 sessions, over 400 meetings and 30-plus written submissions. An online survey was also released and it received over 5,600 responses.
The advisers identified five barriers to recruiting young people to the trades, Green said. One is a lack of information on apprenticeship pathways; two is unclear pathways and difficulty navigating the system; three is a lack of system co-ordination; four is employer apprehension about hiring inexperienced people; and five is the lack of supports for underrepresented groups, with barriers including financial and transportation limitations and previous negative job experiences.
“We believe that the stakeholder-informed recommendations outlined in our report address the key priorities and will contribute to addressing decades-long challenges and support, building a world-class system for Ontario,” Green said.
McNaughton said Skilled Trades Ontario, the new agency replacing the Ontario College of Trades, will address the issue of unclear pathways, creating a “digital portal for students to map their path and to track their progress and break down silos between employers, apprentices and school boards.”
A government statement offered positive comments on the initiatives from Patrick McManus, chair of the Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance; Ian DeWaard, provincial director of the Christian Labour Association of Canada; Joseph Mancinelli, LIUNA international vice-president; and Jim Hogarth, president of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario.
Hogarth said, “Minister McNaughton has shown tremendous leadership in advancing trades training at the youth level, a cornerstone of the skilled trades.”
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