One-to-one trade apprenticeships overdue

As we get closer to graduation day, many teens’ — and parents’ — thoughts turn to the future. What comes next for our younger generation eager to join Ontario’s workforce?

While they’re in the midst of those thoughts, we at BILD hope many of those teens consider a well-paid career in the building trades: framers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, drywallers, welders, bricklayers, millwrights and more.

Here’s why.

Residential and non-residential construction saw about 207,400 jobs created in Ontario last year. About 35,000 new homes will need to be built this year. Each lowrise home creates about 200 jobs. Each highrise home creates up to 500, and there are currently 250 highrise condominium projects under construction in the GTA.

This industry is clearly a big part of what drives the provincial economy.

Within this industry, some of the trades are looking for a qualified crop of workers to replace an aging and retiring workforce. If this goes unaddressed, Ontario’s skills gap could result in 560,000 unfilled positions by 2030. It could cost the economy up to $24.3 billion in foregone gross domestic product and $3.7 billion in provincial tax revenues annually, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

BILD encourages young people to learn skilled trades. Several years ago, BILD committed to give $100,000 over 10 years to George Brown College Centre for Construction and Engineering Technologies. This is in addition to a BILD endowment fund that began in the 1980s and provides dozens of student bursaries every year.

There are opportunities out there. And BILD and the Ontario Home Builders’ Association continue to push for more through the proposal to modernize Ontario’s apprenticeship system and open even more doors for eager workers.

We believe that a one-to-one journeyperson-to-apprentice ratio would help fill Ontario’s skilled-trades gap. The current regulation, overseen by the College of Trades, is different for each trade, but generally it says there must be one licensed journeyperson on staff for the first apprentice hired, and can require an additional four journeypersons to hire any additional apprentice. So it can take five journeypersons on staff to hire two apprentices, nine for three apprentices and so on.

This requirement hurts smaller renovation companies and contractors who don’t have the budgets to hire several journeypersons and shuts them out of the apprenticeship system. It also makes it more difficult to find apprenticeship work, leading to a potential deficit of future skilled trades workers in Ontario.

Several provinces have already modernized their apprenticeship system to tap into the potential of all construction employers and provide more apprenticeship opportunities than Ontario.

This province has fallen behind, making it even more difficult for young people and new Canadians to acquire a foothold in the trades and begin their long careers.

It is time for the next government to refocus on what’s best for Ontario by enabling every capable employer to fully participate in one-to-one apprenticeships. A solutions-oriented approach can provide growth for our economy while building a modern skilled trades workforce across Ontario.

Skilled trade workers are a critical sector of employment and growth. We must give our up-and-coming workers the tools they need to succeed so that they can pick up tools and help this province grow.

Source: Bryan Tuckey, Special to The Toronto Star

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