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Ontario College Of Trades Q & A

Q. Why does the College of Trades matter?

A. The College matters because for the first time, people who work in the skilled trades have decision-making power about what matters to them.

Similar to teachers and doctors, skilled trades workers now make their own decisions about training standards, apprenticeship ratios and whether certification in a trade is compulsory or voluntary.

A public registry will let the public and employers know who is qualified to work as a journeyperson, and that their qualifications are in good standing.

Workplace enforcement will protect certified skilled workers and registered apprentices from unfair competition.

Having a regulatory college gives the trades professional recognition.The College raises the profile of the skilled trades, and promotes the trades as great career opportunities for our young people.

Q. How can skilled workers be part of decisions being made by the College of Trades?

A. Skilled workers can submit input to online consultations, and can apply to be a member of one of the College’s trade boards or other governing boards.

Q. Why can’t we go back to the government making decisions about the trades?

A. Skilled trades workers know best how to make decisions about their own trades.

The College has transparent, consultative processes in place for workers and apprentices to be part of key decisions about ratios, training standards and compulsory versus voluntary status.The College was created to ensure this kind of representative decision-making.In the past, there was not a consistent process for decision-making that was open to direct input from skilled workers.

Q. What are ratios?

A. In the context of skilled trades, ratios refer to the number of journeypersons an employer must employ to supervise and support each apprentice being trained. Ratios for all trades start at 1:1 for the first apprentice. They then range from 1:1 (one journeyperson to one apprentice) to 4:1 (four journeypersons to one apprentice), depending on the trade.

For example:

1:1 – powerline technician, crane operator

2:1 – ironworker

3:1 – plumber, sheet metal worker

4:1 – carpenter, sheet metal worker

Q. Why do ratios vary from trade to trade?

A. Ratios are established by industry to respond to the specific on-the-job training requirements for each trade. Based on these requirements, ratios impact:

  • the quality of training being provided to the apprentice;
  • the speed/efficiency of the work being performed;
  • the health and safety of the apprentice, his/her trainer and the workers in the immediate vicinity of the work; and
  • the supply and/or development of workers.

Q. How do ratios affect employment in the trades?

A. Employers can only accept as many apprentices as is permitted by the set ratio for a specific trade and will often consider whether there is labour market demand to warrant registering or sponsoring a new apprentice. In addition, the employer needs to consider the readiness of journeypersons they currently employ to take on the responsibilities associated with supervising and supporting an apprentice.

Q. How do ratios affect wages and overall costs?

A. Overall costs and wages depend on the size of the job and the workforce. The cost of a specific job may be impacted by ratios given the number of journeypersons.

Q. Why are ratio reviews important?

A. Ratios reviews are important because they ensure the training requirements for a specific trade remain up to date and evolve over time with the demands of industry. New equipment, work processes, health and safety requirements and skilled labour demands all change over time and impact set ratios.

Now, more than ever, ratios will be determined by industry through their own professional College. Industry and not government will make key decisions on ratios based on their own data and requirements.

Q. What factors are considered by the review panel in setting journeyperson to apprentice ratios?

A. The factors or criteria are set out in regulation in consideration of the appropriate journeyperson to apprenticeship ratio:

  • the occupations included in a trade (or scope of practice)
  • existing apprenticeship programs and current ratios
  • health and safety of workers and the public
  • environmental impacts of ratios (if any)
  • economic impacts on stakeholders
  • the current number of apprentices and journeypersons
  • rates of completion for apprentices in training programs
  • ratios in other jurisdictions
  • demographic criteria

Q. Will changing the apprenticeship ratio for all trades of one skilled worker to one apprentice (1:1) create 200,000 jobs?

A. The approach used in this scenario (200,000 apprenticeship jobs) is unknown.The Ministry is not aware of any labour market study or data which supports this estimate.

Out of the more than 150 trades with apprenticeship programs, there are 28 trades, all within construction, with a ratio above 1:1.I would note the projected increases of 200,000 new apprentices is more than five times the current total number of active apprentices registered in these trades (36,000) and is substantially higher than the total number of active journeypersons in these trades (141,000) available to supervise.

In reality, employer support for increased registration depends on a range of factors, including labour market demand.It is extremely unlikely that changing ratios in this way would lead to a significant impact on employment.

Q. Will changing to 1:1 ratios create more jobs?

A. While changing ratios affects the capacity to train apprentices, the creation of new jobs depends on the conditions of the labour market and the ability of employers to hire. Changing ratios would not automatically lead to more jobs unless ratios were the only factor restricting increased registration of apprentices.

Using the approach taken to arrive at the estimated figure of 200,000 jobs and assuming all other factors support increased registration, if apprenticeship ratios were lowered to 1:1 for all 28 trades where the ratio is higher, a maximum of 105,000 apprentices could enter the system over time.

Based on the recent data on the number of active journeypersons and registered apprentices, it would not be possible for the registrations to increase by more than 105,000, even if the ratio for all trades were 1:1. This assumes employer willingness to support an increase of more than five times the number of registered apprentices, which would suggest extraordinarily robust labour market demand, and readiness on the part of every active journeyperson to supervise an apprentice.

It should be noted that this analysis does not take into consideration that:

  • Each journeyperson may not be prepared to take on an apprentice;
  • Current demand in the affected trades may limit the number of new opportunities for new apprentices regardless of ratios;
  • This maximum depends upon the ability of employers to register more apprentices which is tied to economic and labour market conditions (as context, construction employment in Ontario fell by 8,100 net jobs in 2012); and
  • Only 8 of the 28 trades that would be affected are compulsory trades.Employment in 20 of these trades does not require compulsory certification in Ontario and is not tied to ratios.

Economic and labour market conditions are extremely important.Alberta and Saskatchewan have experienced extremely strong demand for labour (including trades) in recent years, which increases the likelihood that lower ratios would lead to higher employment levels.In Ontario, the labour market has been less robust, which would likely limit the impact of ratio changes on employment.

Q. Will an increase in apprentices — either through promotion or by making the apprenticeship ratio 1:1 across the board — result in an oversupply of skilled tradespersons?

A. It is difficult to accurately predict which trades will be in demand in the future. Economic conditions, technological developments, demographics and consumer behaviour will continue to affect the kinds of job opportunities that will be available.

Analysis of supply and demand conditions in the compulsory trades suggested that, overall, future labour market conditions were roughly in balance given recent registration and completion patterns.To the extent that a supply increase is not matched by increased employer demand for skilled workers, an oversupply could result.However, it is important to consider how a change to ratios actually impacts registration behaviour.

Increases in apprenticeship registrations are tied to good economic and labour market conditions.Typically, when the economy is strong, employers register more apprentices and vice versa.

If employers are responsive to market conditions, it is unlikely that they would increase apprenticeship registration in periods of weak labour market demand regardless of changes in ratio requirements.

Specific trades/industries may experience labour market gaps due to relatively higher retirements and other factors such as length and cost of training, institutionally controlled wages, lack of substitutes for labour, and barriers to increased activity of older workers.

Q. What’s stopping employers from simply cycling through new apprentices completing their training without ever hiring any permanently?

A. In making decisions about registering/sponsoring an apprentice, an employer would take into consideration its needs for skilled labour and the labour market demand for additional tradespersons in a specific trade. While technically, the employer could decide to cycle new apprentices and not ever hire any permanently, this could have a negative impact on both the business and the journeypersons who are required to supervise and support the apprentices.

Q. By increasing apprentices, won’t employers be more inclined to hire them over those with more experience in order to save on labour costs?

A. The apprenticeship system is not new. The system is in place so that people can learn a trade from experienced and professional journeypersons. Industry recognizes that a balance is required between apprentices and journeypersons to ensure quality work is performed, and to protect the health and safety of their tradespeople and the public. This is what makes good business sense and how industry has behaved in the past.

Q. Has the ratio review process begun?

A. Yes. Ratio reviews began in April 2012, in accordance with the schedule posted on the College’s website.

Review panel decisions for the first group were posted on the College’s website the week of October 1, 2012.

Remaining ratio reviews are underway.

Q. How will workers and employers find out if a particular trade ratio is being reviewed?

A. A schedule for reviews is posted on the College’s website.

Interested parties can also sign-up for College’s e-news newsletter to stay informed.

Q. Why is the College doing ratio reviews, rather than the government?

A. The government believes that ratio reviews should be subject to a rigorous, objective, and inclusive approach where decisions are based on input from those working in the industry.This is one of the reasons why the government has created the College of Trades.

The College’s transparent process invites written submissions on ratio reviews, as well as in-person presentations to the review panel.

The review panel is made up of three professional adjudicators, who make their decision based on the submissions received, and act in a neutral and impartial manner.

Ratios for each trade are reviewed at least every four years.

Q. How are we making sure that the College isn’t just another layer of costly bureaucracy?

A. The government is working closely with the College of Trades on planning and has indicated that their business practices and policies must be responsible and aligned with the College’s ability to provide value for money services to its future members.The College must prioritize its actions and make sure that implementation is staged over time.

Q. What are we doing to attract young people to the trades to address the labour market needs in the skilled trades?

A. Ontario promotes the skilled trades as a strong career choice for young people

and provides targeted support to help Ontario’s young people enter apprenticeship programs.

For example, we help students train as apprentices while completing their secondary school diploma and we help them earn a college diploma while completing in-class apprenticeship training, which also provides on-the-job training.

An adequate supply of skilled tradespeople is important to Ontario’s continued economic growth and future prosperity, and this Government is committed to ensuring that future skills needs are met.

Workers in the skilled trades are important to the Ontario economy. We need to ensure that young people are aware of opportunities in the skilled trades and make it easier for them to pursue the trades as a professional career.

In fact, in some trades average weekly earnings are comparable to bachelor degree holders, making those trades very attractive to youth. Heavy equipment and crane operators as well as drillers, plumbers, machinery and transportation equipment mechanics and electricians earn comparable wages to undergraduate degree holders.

The Ontario Government recognizes the importance of getting youth into the trades.

Ontario provides a range of apprenticeship programs that are geared toward creating pathways for youth into apprenticeship:

  1. The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program ($10.3 million in 2012-13) introduces high school students to the skilled trades, while also allowing them to simultaneously earn credits towards their high school diploma and an apprenticeship certification;
  2. The Co-op Diploma Apprenticeship Program ($13.7 million in 2012-allows students to earn a college degree while completing both in-class and on the job training towards apprenticeship certification; and,
  3. The Pre-Apprenticeship Program ($10.2 million in 2012-13) is targeted towards key groups, including youth, to help them prepare for a career in the skilled trades.

Q. How are decisions being made about whether a certificate of qualification for a trade should be compulsory or voluntary?

A. The College of Trades has posted a process online that explains how a particular trade can be considered for a change, either from compulsory to voluntary, or from voluntary to compulsory.

As with all things related to training standards and apprenticeship, decisions will be made in a transparent, consultative manner, through submissions by people working in the relevant trade.

Q. What will the College do if the membership fees they collect are more than their operating costs?

A. Membership fees are being phased in, starting in April 2013, with current apprentices receiving free membership until 2014.Fees are targeted to fund the College on a cost-recovery basis.

In years to come, if fees do result in a surplus for the College, decisions can then be made by the College’s boards in consultation with its member.