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Techs for the Taking: SkillsOntario CEO calls on employers to make use of hiring, apprenticeship resources

Toronto, Ontario — The table is set for Ontario’s collision repair managers in need of skilled technicians for their shop, according to Ian Howcroft of SkillsOntario; all they need to do now, he says, is dig in.

Howcroft, SkillsOntario’s CEO of the past five years, recently discussed with Human Resources Director Canada Magazine the often underutilized resources available to trades employers, such as collision shop managers, and how they can be better taken advantage of.

“They can become more engaged with the whole process,” Howcroft said.

“We often find that they have not been able to, or haven’t considered, or don’t know how to hire an apprentice…The Ontario government has done a lot of work to create Skilled Trades Ontario to have a one-stop shop purveyor of information and assistance that individuals…and employers can use to find out what they need to do, what they can do, what are the alternatives. There are grant programs and tax credit programs for those that hire an apprentice and work on an apprentice.”

The interview cited the federal government’s data from 2022 in saying that Ontario currently has more than 100,000 vacant skilled trades jobs, however, Howcroft does not suggest that any of those vacancies are in the automotive sector.

In fact, Howcroft voiced more concern with the current state of the construction industry, pointing to boilermakers, welders and plumbers as among the most in-demand tradespeople.

Furthermore, anecdotes relayed to Collision Repair about graduating class sizes, as well as the comparatively low population of autobody technicians and painters attending skills competitions as of late, may indicate that our specific industry does not occupy a large portion of those 100,000 unfilled positions.

This may soon change, however, as Howcroft expressed his confidence in the ability of SkillsOntario to improve the perception of the skilled trades industry in general.

“There seems to be a lot more interest, a recognition that these are good careers, good career paths. And I think we are starting to at least deal with some of the negative stigmas that are attached to skilled trades and some technology careers,” he said.

Howcroft also pointed to the introduction of a mandatory technical education credit for Grade 9 students in Ontario as a potential seed that will grow into interest in skilled trades by the time they graduate.

“The future is very bright for those that have the training for a skilled trade,” he said.

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