Viewpoint: A clarification on the Ontario College of Trades

The following article is an op-ed written in response to “Ontario College of Trades is a ‘trades tax,'” an op-ed by Frank Notte, Director of Government Relations at the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, which was in turn a response to “Supporting the economy means supporting the trades,” an op-ed by Ron Johnson, Chair of the Ontario College of Trades. You can see read “Supporting the economy means supporting the trades” here, and “Ontario College of Trades is a ‘trades tax'” is available here

By Jules Danielewski
Toronto, Ontario — April 5, 2013 — In his op-ed on the Ontario College of Trades, Frank Notte misses the point (and, regrettably, more than a few facts).
Mr. Notte is labouring under the mistaken belief that the College is a government institution, but that is not the case at all.  What the College represents is taking industry regulation out of government, and letting industry run things by the industry, for the industry. This isn’t a new bureaucracy; this is a flexible, responsive organization that will give tradespeople a say in their future.
Because of the College’s proactive mandate, change will happen much more quickly.  We’ll be able to get rid of outdated regulatory requirements, some dating back to the 1970s.  Prior to the College’s creation, regulatory change was a long and tedious process through government.  Now, things that used to take years are happening in months.
I’ve worked as a certified Red Seal Automotive Service Technician for over thirty years at a local new car dealership in Thunder Bay.  I also hold a Truck and Coach Technician Certificate.  I am qualified and competent, and proud of the work I do.  Many individuals doing work in my industry, however, cannot say the same.  There isn’t currently a level playing field for qualified tradespeople, leading to mistrust of our industry and a high number of consumer complaints.  I have seen situations where choosing an unqualified person ended up being an expensive – and possibly dangerous – mistake.
Right now, in my industry, there are a significant number of individuals lacking proper training, skills, and credentials repairing cars for consumers who simply have no way of knowing the person isn’t qualified.  Those unscrupulous individuals don’t welcome a College that will establish, maintain, and enforce standards for the industry.
But legitimate workers and consumers certainly welcome it. This is good news.
Mr. Notte suggests that consumers can be protected through “existing” legislation.  There is no “existing” legislation; that’s the problem.  The College’s Registry will be the first time consumers will be able to check credentials and ensure they’re hiring a qualified tradesperson.
A fee of $120 dollars a year and $60 for apprenticeships is more than reasonable for the value it will bring to tradespersons, the industry and consumers alike.  This is a membership fee that is the lowest of any membership fees as compared to other Ontario colleges such as the College of Teachers, Social workers or nurses.  Also employers do not have to join. Their membership is strictly voluntary. Most legitimate tradespersons welcome this college and see this as an investment in their career. Unlike Notte, they see their livelihood as a career not a “job” and want to see their trades professionalized and receive the respect it deserves.
Finally, throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor apprentices. I have actively sought changes to the apprenticeship program to give better representation to the Motive Power sector and to tradespersons from the North. The College will have the power to do ratio reviews and make changes as necessary. 
In the end, while some may be wary of change, we simply cannot stick with the status quo if we want to have the vital, skilled and responsible tradespeople we need to the future.
Jules Danielewski worked as a Service Technician in Thunder Bay, Ont., for over 30 years. He is the former Chair of the Industry Committee for Automotive Trades and is currently a member of the Board of Governors at the Ontario College of Trades.

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