The Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) was created by the Ontario government in 2009. It responds to a critical need to have an independent body to regulate and promote skilled trades, while ensuring protection and safety for all people in Ontario.
OPSEU members at OCOT perform indispensable work regulating, promoting, developing and certifying qualifications for 156 skilled trades in Ontario, including 23 where certification is compulsory to legally perform the work.
OCOT employees work hard to ensure individuals professionally working in one of the 23 “compulsory” trades have all the training and certification needed to legally and safely engage in the practice of their trade in Ontario.
Our members assess the credentials of workers from other parts of Canada and future Canadians who want to work as tradespeople in Ontario. They develop apprenticeship training standards and curriculum standards, provincial and Red Seal exams, as well as other assessments to ensure training fulfills industry needs.
They also issue qualifications to those who can demonstrate their knowledge and experience, ensuring quality of work and public safety. They maintain a public register for all trades, safeguarding the public so that only those who are registered and in good standing may use protected titles such as “plumber” and “electrician.” This raises the value of trades work from occupation to profession.
They protect the public by investigating complaints and arranging hearings when misconduct has been alleged.
OCOT employees ensure in-school apprenticeship curriculum standards are harmonized with other Canadian jurisdictions to ensure ease of mobility for all apprentices. They help OCOT members with information and provide integral customer service. They inspect workplaces to ensure that apprenticeship records are up to date and workers are meeting qualification standards.
Our members are also policy and research experts. They develop and evaluate policies and procedures to guide regulation of skilled trades and apprenticeship. In this, they work with our partners across federal and provincial authorities, in education, training, labour and not-for-profit agencies, to ensure a co-operative and integral apprenticeship system.
Bill 47, which received Royal Assent on November 21, 2018, includes a provision to “wind up” OCOT, without any details on how that will look. At risk is the protection of the public in key trades, which must be held to the highest standards to ensure Ontario has first-class, safe and integral infrastructure and services, as well as productive industries that will build a stronger economy. The key functions that OCOT workers currently provide must continue.
Also at stake are some 170 OPSEU members who work at the college. With their unequalled knowledge and experience, the workers who currently work for OCOT are the most logical – and safest – choice to fulfil these necessary functions and ensure an ongoing high-quality apprenticeship and skilled trades system – whatever transition plan the government decides to put in place.
It would be disastrous for the public, the economy and skilled tradespeople if any of these essential regulatory functions at OCOT were eliminated.
Accordingly, OPSEU is making three main demands of the government:
- Recognize the value and expertise of OPSEU members working at OCOT, ensuring they will be able to follow their work to whichever organization, agency or ministry will be performing it, to maintain program integrity.
- Provide information and clarity to current employees in order to strengthen their morale, considering they continue to perform high-quality work during more than three months of uncertainty, which would be conducive to the future excellence of a solid apprenticeship and skilled trades system; and
- Take the time needed for extensive consultations with all stakeholders (including OCOT employees, unions representing members in the skilled trades, and other industry experts) before deciding on the future model for regulating the skilled trades and apprenticeship system.
Some developers and other employers are happy to see the skilled trades deregulated and standards lowered. It means they can hire more low-wage, poorly skilled workers. But this will jeopardize protection to the public and end up costing Ontario’s economy far more.
That’s why the government must harness the knowledge and expertise of OPSEU members, skilled tradespeople and other experts to create a truly excellent and model apprenticeship system for Ontario.
We strongly urge the government not to put the lives of Ontarians, or our economy, at risk. Consulting widely is the only way to go before deciding how this essential regulatory work will be performed during this time of transition.