Supporting the economy means supporting the trades

 By Ron Johnson, Chair of the Ontario College of Trades

Toronto, Ontario — March 7, 2013 — The trades are the backbone of our economy. Hardworking men and women build and maintain the infrastructure that Ontarians rely on every day. They provide valuable services in a range of sectors. But we have a skills shortage looming in several sectors. The Conference Board of Canada estimates we’ll be lacking more than 360,000 skilled trade workers by 2025, a number that could escalate to 560,000 by 2030.
That’s because our economy is growing, but the labour force isn’t able to keep up. We need to attract new workers to the trades if we’re going to maintain our competitive edge. We need to ensure that these people are well-trained, that the skills are available where we need them, and that consumers are protected. We can’t afford to sit idly and hope things work out for the best. We need to be proactive. Industry and the trades are working together to build a better future for our province.
That’s what the Ontario College of Trades is going to do. It’s an industry-driven organization with a mandate to modernize and promote the trades. “Industry-driven” means by tradespeople – and by employers, too; those who recognize the College as an investment in our economic future.
Critics like Garfield Dunlop, the MPP for Simcoe North, say the College will limit opportunities for tradespeople and harm the industry, but that’s simply not true. In fact, the College will be mandated to promote the trades as a profession of first choice among youth and individuals who are changing careers. This will actually increase opportunity, by growing the labour force and strengthening the industry. The College won’t restrict legitimate and honest tradespeople in their work –but it will limit unscrupulous operators who break the rules, do unsafe work, and contribute to the underground economy.
The College will further empower consumers to look up the qualifications of a tradesperson they are planning to hire, and provide a mechanism to report misconduct. The public register and discipline process will increase consumer confidence and raise standards in the industry. These are all positive goals.
It’s disappointing that the Conservatives, who established the Ontario College of Teachers, recognize that teachers are capable and deserving of self-regulation, but refuse to support the same for automotive technicians, plumbers, construction labourers and other skilled tradespeople. 
Our economy is growing. We will face serious skilled trade shortages in the near future if we don’t take action now. Industry and the trades are working together to build a better future for our province. I urge you to visit collegeoftrades.ca to learn more.
Ron Johnson is the Chair of the Ontario College of Trades Board of Governors and sits on the Board’s Executive Committee.

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