As the new Registrar and CEO of the Ontario College of Trades (College), I have spent the last six months getting to know the business of the College, our staff, our members as well as other stakeholder groups across Ontario. Since it was established, the College has made some advances as a unique professional body with a mandate to protect the public and promote trades in Ontario. However, it is clear from past reviews of the College and my consultations with stakeholder groups that more clarity is needed on the role of the College and its potential impact. The questions I keep hearing are:
- What does the College do for me as a member?
- What value does the College bring?
- What do I get for my membership fee?
These are all important and valid questions, and ones we will continue to work to answer with you and our many stakeholders including tradespeople, apprentices, employers, industry associations, unions, government, educators and training institutes, other safety regulators and the public.
The College – Your Professional Body
The College is a professional regulatory body representing skilled trade professionals with the role of protecting the public interest and promoting the skilled trades. The College is partnering with government to modernize apprenticeships, update training standards and ensure workers are certified to perform the work of compulsory trades.
In a competitive and crowded industry where others have not invested the same amount of time in acquiring the required skills and expertise, you stand out both for your Certificate of Qualification and College membership. The College is working, on your behalf, to ensure that you do stand out from those who are not certified tradespeople.
Skilled trades play an important role in the health, safety and economic progress of society. In fact, the demand for skilled trade professionals greatly outstrips supply. That is why the College is working with all stakeholders to attract more workers into the skilled trades to meet this growing demand.
Update on College activities
Protecting the public interest through self-regulation
As a modern regulator, the College needs to use a variety of tools to gain compliance with regulations and we need to focus on effectively balancing the range of activities along the regulatory continuum. Our focus is bringing workers and worksites into compliance. We will use penalties for those who break the law.
Maintaining our presence in the workplace
Given the number of Ontario worksites involved with trades (in excess of 200,000), our inspectors can’t be everywhere. Therefore, the College is targeting our oversight to the areas of greatest risk. This means we will be carrying out targeted compliance outreach, blitzes and looking for other ways to protect the public and workers. Below highlights some of our activities in these areas:
Motive Power: exploring with the automotive insurance industry ways to ensure repair work is undertaken by certified trade professionals, including utilizing existing accreditations.
Industrial and Construction: we will focus our efforts on high-risk areas, vulnerable workers and working with government procurement agents to ensure that compulsory trade work is carried out by certified trade professionals.
Service: undertaking a market review to assess the presence of hairstylists and barbers to assist in the resolution of current issues in the trade.
Helping to modernize the apprenticeship system
Apprenticeship is a critical pathway into the trades. However, the apprenticeship system is complex and has many players. The College will work with you, government, employers and the training community to streamline the apprenticeship system and expand and promote more apprentices on worksites. This will require the continued assessment of apprenticeship ratios, which is a key concern of employers and workers.
Working better with other regulators
To have the greatest impact, the College must work with partners. For instance, we need to work in co-operation and partnership with regulators who visit the same workplaces we do. Currently, there are many different players providing regulatory oversight in today’s workplaces. We want to work with these organizations to make our regulatory oversight more effective in identifying non-compliant individuals and businesses and to reduce burden on compliant businesses to the benefit of the public, workers and employers.
To implement the new compliance and enforcement policy, the College will assess available data, collect new types of data and information, and work with other safety regulators to identify the greatest risks of underground economy and persons working without proper trade certification. To do this, we will put in place information-sharing agreements that facilitate targeted enforcement in addressing the underground economy and its negative consequences on all Ontarians.
Raising public awareness
The public has a critical role to play in driving compliance. The College is working to increase consumer and public awareness and influence their decisions when hiring trades professionals. We are encouraging the public to check if a tradesperson is certified by using our online Public Register to verify credentials. The College will continue to invest in ways to better reach the public and inform them of the value in hiring qualified tradespeople and those who employ them.
Engagement with our stakeholders
We are in the process of developing the College’s next strategic plan. Over the next three months I will be consulting with our members, potential members and other stakeholders, including employers, labour, training authorities and other regulators in order to fully achieve the value the College can bring to our members and Ontario more broadly.