Sector 9-Universities

Expert voices need to be heard on OCOT: President Thomas

OPSEU Sector 9 Universities

170 OPSEU members who work for the Ontario College of Trades have been in limbo for more than three months since the Ford government announced the winding down of the organization, which regulates 156 skilled trades occupations and apprenticeships in Ontario.

President Warren (Smokey) Thomas wrote to Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, to request her assurance that OCOT employees will continue to do the essential work of regulating skilled trades and apprenticeships in Ontario, no matter which organization, agency or ministry takes on the work. He stressed the importance of ensuring that the expert voices of OCOT employees and those of skilled tradespeople are heard during this time of transition.

OPSEU members at OCOT perform the following indispensible regulatory work:

  • They issue qualifications to those who are experienced and authorized to perform the work in their skilled trade;
  • They manage a public register for all trades and ensure that only those who are registered use protected titles such as “Plumber” and “Electrician”;
  • They protect the public by investigating complaints and arranging hearings when misconduct is alleged;
  • They inspect workplaces to ensure that apprenticeship records are up to date and workers meet qualification standards;
  • They develop apprenticeship training and curriculum standards, provincial and Red Seal examinations, as well as other assessments to ensure training meets industry needs;
  • They assess the credentials of workers from other parts of Canada and future Canadians who wish to immigrate and work as tradespeople in Ontario to help our economy grow;
  • They ensure that in-school apprenticeship curriculum standards in Ontario are harmonized with other jurisdictions to ensure ease of mobility for apprentices;
  • They are policy and research experts who develop and evaluate policies and procedures, guiding the regulation of skilled trades and apprenticeships;
  • They work with our partners across federal and provincial authorities, as well as partners in education, training, labour and not-for-profit agencies to ensure a cooperative provincial and interprovincial apprenticeship system;
  • They provide information to the public, journeypersons and apprentices about skilled trades.

President Thomas sent the following letter to Minister Fullerton:

February 4, 2019

The Honourable Merrilee Fullerton
Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities
900 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1L2

Dear Minister:

I am deeply concerned about plans to shut down the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT). OPSEU represents 170 members who perform indispensible work at the OCOT. They regulate, develop and certify qualifications for 156 skilled trade occupations in Ontario. Certification is compulsory to legally perform the work in 23 of those occupations.

Protection for the public in the Construction, Motive Power, Service and Industrial related trades must be upheld to the highest standard to ensure quality infrastructure, safe transporation, integral services and productive industries.

The knowledge and expertise of the OCOT members is vital in producing a high-quality apprenticeship and skilled trades system. I have three requests:

  1. Recognize the value and expertise of OPSEU members working at OCOT, ensuring they can continue their work to whichever new system is set up.
  2. Provide information and clarity to current employees so they are not mired in uncertainty.
  3. Take the time for extensive consultations with all stakeholders, including OPSEU, before deciding on the future model for regulating the skilled trades and apprenticeship system.

The essential functions of the Ontario College of Trades must continue, no matter which organization, agency or ministry takes on the job, and our members are the most qualified to continue this work.

It would be disastrous for the public, the economy and skilled tradespeople if any of these essential regulatory functions at OCOT were eliminated.

Minister, I urge you to consult widely with OPSEU, fee-paying members of OCOT and the trades community as you decide how this essential work will be performed. The safety of Ontarians and the health of our economy is at stake.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas

c: Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Opposition
Guy Bourgouin, NDP Critic, Training, Trades and Apprenticeships
Jan Hughes, Director, Apprenticeship Transition, Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities
Sarah McQuarrie, Director, Apprenticeship, Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities
Don Gosen, Chair, Ontario College of Trades