Ontario College of Trades

Ford and the Conservatives have announced a “wind down” of OCOT. This legislation is part of Bill 47, which is being rammed through with all the other anti-worker legislations that the conservatives are putting forth to help their business partners and cronies, all while telling us that it is better for workers! The major problem with this “wind down” is that the current government has not proposed any alternatives to a governing body for trades.

As a part of this “wind down” Bill 47 will also permit apprenticeship ratios of one-to-one. Currently 80 percent of the trades that make up the college do not have any requirements for a ratio. This means that they can have as many as they want. However, these trades do not even come close to a one-to-one ratio. In compulsory trades, trade boards have discussed for years and debated the apprenticeship ratios with safety and training as the key factors. Industry has come up with what they feel are ratios that are acceptable for the apprentices to properly and safely learn their respective trade. OCOT took this one step further by having a ratio review process, which included consultation. In the “wind down” and ratio change announcement from the conservatives, MPP Fullerton, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities was quoted saying, “As far as we’re concerned, if you are prepared to do the work then you deserve a shot at the job.” The trade boards have spent many years in the past considering what is best for an apprentice and the trade. A one-to-one ratio will cause apprentices to receive less job training with a qualified mentor and instead lead apprentices to working alone and/or working with other apprentices instead of a qualified journey individual. This can cause an overabundance of untrained or poorly trained, semi-skilled workers. This can lead to safety issues for the workers and the public, as well as a lack of desire to fulfill these jobs in the future as they will likely be low paying jobs.

One of the principles of the college was to raise the level of professionalism within the trades. The idea was to elevate the status of trades so that they would be sought-after career choices and not a second option. This would provide safe and well-paying career choices for apprentices. Many professional career choices have a governing body like the college. These colleges have been shaped over the years with the interests of the members and the public, with little or no interference from government bodies.
Since the inception, OCOT has been plagued with many governmental influences. A key and welcomed component of the college was the enforcement aspect to help protect the public and the trades. For many years, there was very little or no enforcement of compulsory trades, and many workers who were illegally performing the work of compulsory trades where opposed to OCOT.

The proposed “wind down” of the college was announced with no consultation from any of the trade boards. The trade boards were told they would not be meeting. Both announcements were very disappointing. I believe anyone involved would be asking questions like who will make recommendations on apprenticeship, curriculum, and any other trade related issues.

Yes, OCOT was not perfect but to just end it with no system in place afterword’s is not a reasonable approach. The idea of a governing body, which was first put forth by Armstrong, similar to the College of Nurses and 30 other professional career choices, was a sound one.

In Solidarity,

Ray Hamel
UNIFOR National Skilled Trades Council
UNIFOR Local 88