Ontario embarks on trades training modernization journey

Digital logbooks, a brand new agency, job fairs for students – big things are afoot in the east.

A female electrician practices her skills in Ontario.

Many apprenticeship services are becoming digital as Ontario overhauls its trades training infrastructure. – Skilled Trades Ontario

Key Takeaways:

  • Skilled Trades Ontario, a new agency to oversee and boost trades training, launched earlier this year.
  • Many processes for trades training in Ontario have begun moving online.
  • Officials say more changes are on the way to modernize the provinces apprenticeship and training systems.

The Whole Story:

Efforts to modernize trades training and attract new skilled workers are ramping up in Ontario.

The Ontario government announced it will be hosting  career fairs this fall to address labour shortages in high-demand sectors. The apprenticeship system has also undergone a complete transformation with the launch of Skilled Trades Ontario (STO).

Melissa Young, CEO and registrar for STO, explained that the new agency was built to modernize and streamline the trades training process. 

“The old system was very convoluted,” said Young. “Apprentices had to make so many different stops. It was the most confusing thing anyone could experience in their life. You register in one office, get your log book in a different office – it was five or six stops and you have to go through that every year.” 

STO, which replaced the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT), is moving many processes online. They recently announced that logbooks will be digital. This allows apprentices to electronically track their progress, instead of carrying paper books. This new online solution coincides with the launch of the agency’s official logo and branding, now on their website.

“Apprentices can go see where they are at and employers can update apprentice hours on the job,” said Young. “It’s just going to make life so much easier.” 

Young explained that STO is wanting to send a message that construction is a high tech, modern industry. 

They will take a warm body as long as they show up in the morning. Just getting them through that door though is hard. We have some marketing work to do.”

Melissa Young – Skilled Trades Ontario CEO

“Technology is really coming to the forefront of the trades on the jobsite,” she said. “There are new types of technology and products being used today that were never used before. The perception of construction is starting to take a positive turn I think.” 

Ontario is a massive part of Canada’s apprenticeship pipeline. Young noted that of the roughly 380,000 apprentices in Canada, 25 per cent are in Ontario. 

“It’s the same for investment in infrastructure,” she said. “Things are behind because there aren’t enough people to get the jobs done. That’s a common theme from employers. They will take a warm body as long as they show up in the morning. Just getting them through that door though is hard. We have some marketing work to do.”

Young couldn’t elaborate on what the next steps for STO are, but emphasized that many things are in the works.

“Ontario has been lagging with the winding down of OCOT,” said Young. “Skilled trades were kind of put on pause with curriculum and standards development so we are putting a heavy push on that and you will hear about it in the future.”

Young encouraged Ontario residents to check out the upcoming Level Up! career fairs which will highlight 144 different skilled trades. For the first time, students in grades 7 to 12 will have the opportunity to learn about these trades through interactive exhibitions and hands-on activities, while hearing directly from tradespeople and local employers about trades careers.

“Ontario is facing the largest labour shortage in a generation, which means when you have a job in the skilled trades, you have a job for life,” said Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, immigration, training and skills development in a press release. “Our government is launching these annual career fairs so more students and parents know university isn’t the only path to success. We will continue to make historic investments to attract more young people to rewarding, lucrative and purpose-driven careers in the trades, and ensure employers can find the skilled workers they need to grow their businesses and our economy.”

The first career fair kicks off October 25 to 27 in Mississauga, with subsequent fairs planned in London, Sudbury, Ottawa and Thunder Bay.

“We are on a mission to fill the skills gap by better connecting and ultimately inspiring Ontario students to enter these good-paying jobs that are in demand. We are expanding career fairs and enhancing pathways to apprenticeship throughout the curriculum,” said Stephen Lecce, minister of education in a press release. “By placing a real emphasis on life and job skills like coding, financial literacy and budgeting, we are ensuring Ontario students graduate with a competitive advantage and land good-paying jobs.”


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