Entries in Dean Review (1)


Review complete on the polarizing College of Trades

The Ontario College of Trades has been a very polarizing issue since its inception two and a half years ago. In the trades, there are some who feel the College is handling and fulfilling its mandate and there are others who feel they are being pushed around by another layer of government regulation.    

The College defines itself as “an industry-driven, professional regulatory body that protects the public by regulating and promoting the skilled trades.  However it is not that simple.  On top of protecting the public through regulation and promoting the skilled trades the College is also responsible for trade classification and reclassification reviews, assessing journeyman to apprentice ratios, enforcement of credentials.  How these goals are accomplished has been the source of great tension in a sector of our economy that has been identified as being a large part of Ontario’s future economic success.   

In October of last year, Tony Dean was asked by the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities to review “Issues Related to the Scopes of Practice” and the “Classification/Reclassification of Trades”.  In addition, Dean also reviewed the journeyperson to apprentice ratios for trades subject to ratios and enforcement and if any consideration should be given to Ontario Labour Relations Board decisions.  What we find in the Dean Review are suggestions to shrink the gap between the two sides.  But it is also quite evident that there are many moving parts that at times seem to be working toward disparate goals. 

“…with tensions between the College’s mandate as both advocate and regulator, [it] has made the work
interesting and challenging,” writes Dean in a letter to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. “It is my hope the report will contribute in some way to a stronger more viable and focused College of Trades with better capacity to contribute to the economy and quality of life in Ontario.”

The result of the year long consultations is 31 recommendations, the bulk of which, 14, are on the subject of trade classification and reclassification reviews.  These recommendations offer suggestions on who should be on review panels, what evidence should be considered, and which lens the review should be conducted through.

The Ontario Chamber Network has 11 of its own recommendations to government including:


  1. Ensuring that the OCT Board clarify the process by which compulsory and noncompulsory trades are determined; if a trade goes from non-compulsory to compulsory, what precipitates this process and what is the transition process criterion?
  2. Ensuring that any employer representative on the Board must not have membership in a union, and immediately review the terms of reference of the Ontario College of Trades as it pertains to their independence from external influences.
  3. Determining critical success factors to measure and report the effectiveness of the College of Trades and report on the abilities of trained apprentices to obtain jobs.
  4. Ensuring the role of the College of Trades does not place undue bureaucratic processes, additional fees or hardship on the development and attraction of tradespersons.
  5. Reviewing the mandate of the Ontario College of Trades to ensure that workplaces in all areas of the provinces are incorporated in the decision-making process and institutional operations.
  6. Addressing the governance issue:  The College Board should be nominated and elected by its membership in a transparent, fair manner. Directors should represent the diverse makeup of all skills from both union and non-union trades, and include representation from both large and small business. In addition, any Director and subsequent member of a Divisional Board must include representation from both rural and urban communities. The members of ratio review and trade classification panels must represent small and large enterprises and reflect the diversity of the trades they are reviewing. 
  7. Fixing the perception problem:  The College needs to create a strategic communication and outreach plan to fill the gaps in misinformation and improve transparency.
  8. Immediately implementing a coordinated apprenticeship reform program to move to a minimum 1 to 1 apprenticeship ratio.
  9. Initiating a five-year pilot project that would see Northern Ontario employers have the opportunity to train using a three apprentices to one journeyman ratio.
  10. Implementing a strategy to aggressively reform ratios to mirror apprenticeship programs in British Columbia and Alberta to make Ontario competitive with jurisdictions that are drawing our talent away from Ontario.
  11. Immediately beginning coordination of federal and provincial funding initiatives to meet skilled labour demands through education and incentives for employers.

There are a couple of recommendations in the Dean Review that tick some of the boxes associated with those 11 recommendations from the business community.  Among them is the appointment of a roster of 

independent experts to review trade classification and reclassification reviews and that ratio review panels should also consider the demand for a trade in different regional/geographic areas of the province.  These are core issues that have very different impacts if you own a business in the GTA or in Peterborough.

“Currently, nearly one in three employers are unable to fill a job because they cannot find someone with the right qualifications,” says Allan O’Dette, President & CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

However, as we heard in the economic outlook at Business Summit 2015 last week, where we have seen workers leaving Ontario for other provinces, there is the potential for the opposite to occur as workers return to Ontario as a result of the downturn in the oil industry.  

That being said, part of the College’s mandate is to promote the skilled trades to youth, and going forward with such a plan requires a solid governance plan that has buy in from the industry and a ratio program that is flexible to the needs of employers and reflects the varying regional needs of the province.  Building on the College's mandate of promoting skilled trades to the province’s youth is a moot point if they have limited
opportunity to practice their skills in this province.   

The province is expected to introduce legislation in the spring that will reflect the recommendations of the Dean Review.  

Dean Review Full Report