Ontario has been in need of more skilled trades workers for many years, but the urgency is increasing as our trades will play a critical role in our economic recovery. Despite the pandemic and all of the supply chain issues, increases in material costs, and other disruptions it has brought, a lack of skilled labourers could be the biggest barrier ahead for the construction industry. Even current homeowners who have been trying to hire workers to perform renovations and repairs can attest to the difficulty of hiring contractors on any reasonably short timeline. The Government of Ontario is taking a new approach to skilled trades with a new agency called Skilled Trades Ontario, effectively a replacement for the Ontario College of Trades. The role of this agency is to promote and market the trades, develop the latest training and curriculum standards, and provide a streamlined user-friendly experience for tradespeople. The agency will offer an online service that will help apprentices manage their careers in a central place that includes scheduling classes and exams, submitting forms, and paying fees. It is also expected to reduce processing and registration from 60 days down to 12. Enforcement has shifted to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. According to the Government of Ontario, one in five jobs will be in the trades by 2025. They also note that the previous Ontario College of Trades had a discouraging effect on people entering the trades with registrations dropping by 40%. The average age for an apprentice is currently 29 years old. The Province expects retirements to be a big challenge in the near future, noting in 2016 nearly one in three journeypersons were age 55 or older. It’s estimated that Ontario could be short as many as 350,000 skilled workers by 2025. The new agency is being received with optimism by a number of industry stakeholders, unions and associations. It’s reassuring to see more investment in encouraging people to pursue a career in the trades. The need for more skilled workers predates the pandemic. Some of the barriers around access have been addressed while a concerted effort from our governments, schools, and industry associations is having a positive impact on addressing the stigma around trades jobs. The needs of the modern tradesperson have changed as well. There is a need for proficiency with the latest technology and an understanding of issues and opportunities around climate change. There is still a long way to go in filling the need for skilled workers. The pandemic has exacerbated our labour issues into a shortage across sectors and industries. Young people entering the workforce have a lot of options on what direction to take their career. Our leaders continue to plan for our recovery from this pandemic and one of the recurring themes is the need for people. The issue isn’t that there are scores of people unwilling to join the workforce. While some have removed themselves from the workforce for various reasons, our employment participation rate in Peterborough is higher than it was before the pandemic. The people shortage appears to be a symptom of desire for growth. Nowhere is this more apparent than construction. We can't build quick enough to meet demand, from homes to public infrastructure projects to new industrial and commercial developments. We’re struggling to find enough people to produce the materials we need, offload them in ports and railyards, process them in warehouses, and transport them where they need to go — and that’s just getting to the point of starting construction. Investments in a skilled workforce were needed before COVID took our economy for a roller coaster ride and they're even more important now as we try to recover. Hopefully Skilled Trades Ontario is able to make good on its mandate and assist in developing the skilled workforce we need. We won’t make up for the shortage of skilled workers over night, but we’re heading in the right direction.
The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce acts as a catalyst to enhance business growth, opportunity, innovation, partnerships and a diverse business community.