A shift in training
There is little doubt that training authorities across the country are keeping a close eye on Ontario as it transitions trade training and certification from government to an independent industry driven body.
And as the Ontario College of Trades moves further into its mandate, the industry is seeing for the first time in many years the introduction of new compulsory trades. The College recently announced a two-year implementation period for the Sprinkler and Fire Protection Installer trade. In a presentation to the annual meeting of the Canadian Water Quality Association in Niagara Falls May 15, College of Trades registrar and CEO David Tsubouchi expressed a willingness to work with that industry to create a water treatment technician trade. Other sectors, such as hydronic heating, have also expressed an interest in a specialized trade.
There are a lot of good reasons for this, not least of which is that ever more complex technology in many of these sectors requires a degree of specialization that sometimes isn’t taught well as a small part of a larger trade program.
Keeping the trade within a narrower scope would make it easier for the journeyperson to keep up to date as well.
But at the same time, I worry that this fragmentation can’t help but make life difficult for the contractor. Will the contractor need to hire multiple different trades depending on what each project entails? Or, more likely, is each tradesman going to require multiple tickets to be able to do what they currently do under one all-encompassing certificate? (And many journeymen already have multiple licenses.)
As part of these more focused trades, do we really need to have a three or four-year apprenticeships? If the scope is narrower the duration should be shorter.
I was speaking to a contractor in Calgary the other day and he mentioned one of the major problems he sees is that once the tradesman has his journeyman certificate, he has it for life. They can leave the trade for 20 years and there is no need to receive additional training if they decide to come back.
Many tradesmen upgrade their skills continuously through training offered by manufacturers and wholesalers, while others don’t. Engineers receive training credits for participating in these sessions; perhaps a similar system should be created for the licensed trades as an added incentive.
The industry has been talking about these issues for many years and demanding more control over trades training. The cash-strapped Ontario government took that as an invitation and dumped trades training on the industry by creating the industry-run – and funded – College of Trades. Suddenly, all these issues are on the table and things are happening. Other provinces can’t help but take notice.