Entries in Ontario College of Trades (5)


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



Peterborough Chamber Roundtable Sessions: College of Trades

On Friday, May 29, 2015, the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce hosted David Tsubouchi, CEO of the Ontario College of Trades and a number of Chamber members for a discussion about the College of Trades and its impact on business.  

Mr. Tsubouchi started the discussion with an overview of the College and its mandate, including how it was formed, not by the trades, but by government to ensure public safety and promote the skilled trades.  The College also has a mandate to enforce that all skilled trades workers are properly licensed.  

“To support the success of the College of Trades as it moves into its second year, we will appoint a special advisor to review the College’s application process and scope of practice of trades, including how the scope of practice relates to enforcement," said Premier Kathleen Wynne in announcing the Dean Review. "We will pause the certification of new compulsory trades during this review.” 

The Dean Review, lead by Tony Dean is currently touring the province and receiving input from chambers of commerce and employers.  

Some of the topics on the table during the Peterborough roundtable last week included:


  • Apprenticeship ratios 
  • Apprenticeship programming 
  • The negative perception around the value of the College of Trades
  • How the Review Panels are formed
  • Why employers are not joining the College
  • Employers struggle to take on new grads because of apprenticeship ratios, despite great programs such as those at Fleming College
  • Concerns about the rural community voice heard at the review panel for apprenticeship ratios


Concerns about enforcement tactics and procedures In the end, it was obvious that there is a lot riding on this latest review. Written submissions are closed and consultations  have wrapped up, but the Dean Review is expected to be released in the fall of 2015.  

Comment through the "Peteborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn. 


Peterborough Chamber of Commerce helps set lobbying agenda at Ontario Chamber AGM









The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is in business to help strengthen your business.  That’s exactly what was happening in Cornwall this past weekend when over 120 Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade gathered for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting (OCC AGM).  The delegates were gathered to debate the recommendationsto government from over 40 policy resolutions. 

Board Chair Pat Marren, President & CEO Stuart Harrison and Policy Analyst Sandra Dueck brought forward two resolutions on behalf of the Peterborough Chamber membership.  

The first resolution was in partnership with the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce and calls on the provincial government to bring the "Heads and Beds Levy" more in-line with today's costs. The payment in lieu of taxes from post-secondary institutions, hospitals and correctional facilities has not changed from the current value of $75 since 1987, which puts a significant strain on local residential and commercial tax rates.  It’s estimated that adjusting the heads and beds levy to reflect inflation would provide approximately $1.1 million in additional funds to the City of Peterborough’s annual budget. The resolution passed.  

The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce also brought forward a resolution asking for support of the Energy East Project. The Chamber Network had great debate on this issue including two very close votes on several amendments. In the end, the Network supported the project with a recommendation to the National Energy Board to carefully investigate the impact on natural gas supply and prices.  

"This conference is where the local Chambers are able to bring their issues to the provincial level," says Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. "The Energy East resolution brought forward by the Peterborough Chamber was relevant and fostered an informative conversation on a project that will have significant and positive economic impact on Peterborough, the province and Canada." 

Through the policy resolution process, the Chamber Network has officially identified the Energy East project as a major economic driver for the province of Ontario and here at home.  GE Peterborough has been awarded the contract to build the motors that will move the oil through the pipeline.  This contract will bring 250 jobs to the city and is a positive reflection of government strategically investing in our business community.  The Chamber Network has included strategic business investment in its “Emerging Stronger” lobbying platform for the past four years.  The National Energy Board will be assessing the project based on economic impact, safety and environmental concerns.    

Board Chair Pat Marren also spoke in favour of a resolution from the Tillsonburg Chamber of Commerce calling for a one-permit system for trucking companies in the province.   “As someone who is in this business and actually deals with the permit renewal process in my company I would like to see this resolution remain on the books,” Marren told the delegates. “My company is required to get an Ontario permit for all Kings’ highways plus 20-25 townships or municipalities separately throughout the year.  Each permit requires Certificates of Insurance, WSIB Clearance certificates plus the application for each municipality which is slightly different in each case.  One annual permit that covers the entire province would save countless man hours and help us improve productivity.”  

A resolution on WSIB reform also received approval from the delegates.  Of particular note was a call for
exemption from WSIB coverage for those construction employers who have obtained comprehensive 24/7 insurance coverage.

Chambers from across the province also debated and approved a suggested course of action for a mental health strategy in the workplace.  In all four recommendations were made including asking the Government of Ontario to develop a comprehensive workplace mental health strategy that emphasizes mental health awareness, education and rehabilitation for employees.  The strategy must not be prescriptive or place an additional burden on businesses but should instead be focused on improving mental health awareness.

Reducing the growing cumulative regulatory burden on business was also an issue of high priority for the Chamber Network and one that will take centre stage in the coming months.

The Ontario Chamber Network also passed recommendations to government on the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, electricity, the College of Trades, agri-business and installing and developing a province-wide broadband strategy. 

As a result of the policy work the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is channeling the collective strength of the business community in Peterborough.

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.


College of Trades still a point of contention for business

The first article in this space on Thursday, January 10, 2013 was titled “College of Trades failing to make the grade with industry and its tradespeople”.  Sadly, that sentiment still holds true two years later.  Since that time the Chamber Network, through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has been very vocal about concerns surrounding the mandate of the Ontario College of Trades (the College).  A white paper was released in October 2013 titled “Caution: Work Ahead”.  Delegates to the 2013 and 2014 OCC Annual General Meetings have passed policy resolutions with recommendations to improve the policy framework and outcomes of the College. 

The College is a regulatory body for the skilled trades that was born out of legislation passed in 2009.  It has a mandate that states, “the new College will issue licenses and certificates of membership; protect the public interest through investigation and discipline mechanisms; set standards for training and certification; conduct research and collect relevant data to support future apprenticeship and certification policies; removing barriers and increasing access for internationally trained workers.” 

In October of 2014, about 18 months after starting operations, the provincial government announced that it had appointed “former Secretary of Cabinet and Head of the Ontario Public Service, Tony Dean, to review key areas of Ontario's skilled trades system that fall within the mandate of the Ontario College of Trades.”

The Dean Review included a call for written submissions and the Ontario Chamber Network responded with a document titled “Constructive Criticism” and signed by 24 Chamber managers across the province, including our own President & CEO, Stuart Harrison.  

The submission asks two questions: Is the College currently protecting the public interest and how should the
College advance the public interest?  Under the second question three considerations were examined: 

  1. Consider the Broader Economic Impact & Fill the Data Gap
  2. Reform the Trade Classification Review Process
  3. Lower Barriers to Entry in the Skilled Trades

The write-in phase documents were due to the Dean Review on Friday, March 13, 2015.  In his March 2015 Reviewer’s Update, Tony Dean writes that “107 submissions from College trade boards, individuals, single-trade and trade sector employers and unions, training providers and independent businesses.”

In his introductory letter in "Constructive Criticism", OCC President and CEO Allan O'Dette explains why the College needs to be effective, “Building a 21st century workforce is a core component of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s (OCC) five year Emerging Stronger economic agenda for Ontario. Keeping the province’s economy firmly on the path from recovery to growth will require an adaptable and highly skilled labour pool. A modern apprenticeship system and a regulatory climate that is flexible and responsive to labour market needs are crucial factors to achieving this.   

In its current form, the College is not positioned to deliver on many elements of its mandate. Over the last year, concerns have mounted over its compulsory membership structure, and the bias inherent to its trade classification review process. Additionally, the implications of expanding the range of compulsory trades have not yet been fully analyzed or adequately debated, and decisions appear to be made without sufficient objective.

It should be noted that our membership has expressed disappointment that the scope of your review does not extend to journeyperson-to-apprentice ratios, the ratio review panel process, apprenticeship
training, and the promotion of the skilled trades among the province’s youth. It is our hope that these concerns can be discussed in detail through in-person consultations with local chambers of commerce and boards of trade in communities across the province.”

The OCC report concludes that “the Ontario Chamber membership of 60,000 businesses remains unconvinced that the Ontario College of Trades has brought value to skilled tradespersons and
apprentices across the province.”  

It goes on to suggest that too much focus is being made on enforcement and compliance and that “all decisions regarding compulsory trade and apprenticeship ratios are [should be] transparent and subject to high decision-making thresholds.”   

The Chamber Network also suggests an independent advisory council be created and modeled after the Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council (HPRAC).  

The Dean Review will be holding in-person consultations starting today (Thursday, April 9, 2015) in Kingston, followed by visits to Ottawa, Hamilton, London, Sarnia, Thunder Bay, Sudbury and the GTA.

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.


Government announces independent review of Ontario College of Trades, pauses trade classification

On Thursday, October 23, 2014, the Government of Ontario announced the appointment of Tony Dean, former Secretary of Cabinet and Head of Ontario Public Service, to lead an independent review of the Ontario College of Trades and other key areas of Ontario's skilled trades system.

Included under the purview of the review will be issues related to the scope of practice performed by a tradesperson, as well as the process for the classification of compulsory versus voluntary trades. Findings will be presented to both the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities and the College of Trades in October 2015.

The Government of Ontario also announced that all trade classification reviews will be paused during the duration of Mr. Dean's review. Currently, the College is mandated to consider applications that seek to change the certification of trades from voluntary to compulsory. A compulsory trade is one in which workers must acquire a certificate of qualification from a government-accredited school in order to perform work in that trade. Workers in trades classified as compulsory must pay the College an annual membership fee of $120.

This review comes at a pivotal time. In its current form, the College is poorly positioned to deliver on many of the core elements of its mandate, which includes oversight of journeyperson-to-apprentice ratios, ensuring industry compliance and certification, and addressing labour market shortages by promoting careers in the skilled trades.

The announcement is a first step towards supporting the success of the skilled trades in the province. Over the last year, concerns have mounted over the College’s compulsory membership structure, as well as bias in the College's trade classification review process. However, the review does not touch upon other key areas of the College's mandate, including Ontario's high journeyperson-to-apprentice ratios and low apprenticeship completion rates, as well as the low number of youth entering the skilled trades as a career.

Since the College’s creation in 2009, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber Network have led the conversation about reforming the College of Trades. In October of 2013, the OCC released the report, Caution: Work Ahead, which highlights several serious issues facing the College and provides six recommendations that will make the College more responsive to employers’ needs.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce will participate vigorously in the review and continue to advocate for changes in the ratio review process.

Peterborough Chamber Voice of Business Articles: 

College of Trades failing to make the grade with industry and its tradespeople - January 10, 2013 

OCC: Apprentice ratios under the microscope - March 7, 2013

OCC: Policy resolution on Ontario College of Trades now on the books - May 16, 2013

Apprenticeship ratio reviews, membership ... still a lot of questions around the Ontario College of Trades - September 19, 2013

OCC: Reform needed for the College of Trades - November 7, 2013