“82% of Ontario businesses who hired in the last year experienced one challenge – usually finding someone with the proper qualifications.”
The above statistic is from two surveys by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and is found in “Vote Prosperity: The 2018 Election Platform of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce” which was released last October.
What it tells us is that there is a skills mismatch across the economic spectrum. One of the areas where this mismatch is most prevalent is in the apprenticeship realm. The Peterborough Chamber of
Commerce has identified the apprenticeship system as a key driver to the success of urban/rural areas such as ours. However, the system as it is currently creates barriers for employers, apprentices, and would-be apprentices. In 2016, we authored a policy resolution asking the provincial government for the following:
Implement a three year pilot project that would allow small and medium-sized employers in rural communities and small urban centers across Ontario to apply for an apprenticeship ratio increase.
Compile and assess the data from the pilot project to inform future ratio review discussions.
The Chamber became connected locally to this issue through discussions around apprenticeships with member Fleming College and the Kawartha Trades and Technology Centre, and member businesses in this space. We also sit on a committee led by the three area school boards delivering the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program. The result of this work and Chamber advocacy led to an invitation by the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development for us to participate in group discussions around
developing a multi-year Ontario Apprenticeship Strategy.
In February of this year that strategy was released. At the outset our commentary about regional priorities and apprenticeship ratios is featured in this strategy which is based on five pillars:
We see references to the Chamber recommendations above in the short- and long-term initiatives under Pillar 3 Engage and Support Employers and Sponsors where there is discussion about employer consortiums (which were given the green light in the Fall Economic Statement) and regional strategies.
The Ontario Apprenticeship Strategy also commits to a modernized apprenticeship system that is transparent and accountable for outcomes. To that end, the report states that four broad measures to monitor progress will be used initially:
All of this is good work and we were proud to be part of the strategy to move the apprenticeship system forward.
Federally, the 2018 budget included the creation of the Apprentice Incentive Grant for Women offering yearly $3000 in grants to women pursuing training in Red Seal trades.
However, this strategy is not quite a homerun. There is an area that is not mentioned once in the report and that is the impact of apprenticeship ratios on 33 trades and how those ratios can hinder employer capacity and the apprentice’s ability to find a sponsor, particularly in rural areas. Ultimately, supporting apprentices and employers through various programs and the tax incentives mentioned in the strategy is a good step forward, but if a business cannot afford to hire additional journeymen to bring on additional apprentice or we reach the point where the number of journeymen is lower than the number of apprentices seeking placements because of the ratio restrictions then barriers will only continue to exist.
Read the Provincial Strategy