The Honourable Monte McNaughton
Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development
14th Floor, 400 University Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1T7

Dear Minister McNaughton,

As Apprenticeship Youth Advisors, we have completed our review and report on increasing the engagement of young people in the skilled trades and addressing the stigma and barriers associated with pursuing a career in the skilled trades, according to the Order-in-Council 1224/2020.

The complexities and challenges with the skilled trades and apprenticeship system have a long-standing history, and many have sought to address these challenges over the years. However, we were encouraged by the government’s comprehensive Skilled Trades Strategy and commitment to breaking the stigma, simplifying the system, and encouraging employer participation.

We were excited to embark on our mandate to engage broadly with a diverse range of stakeholders to inform our final recommendations. As our mandate comes to an end, we would like to thank all those who engaged with us, as well as our secretariat team, whose support enhanced our ability to hear from stakeholders and the people of Ontario. We are proud of the volume of engagements we were able to hold and the level of participation from stakeholders through virtual meetings and responses to the online survey. We are confident that the enclosed recommendations reflect the voices of the partners with whom we engaged and will if implemented, bring about necessary enhancements to the system.

We hope that our recommendations will improve access into the skilled trades and apprenticeship system and to the ministry’s Skilled Trades Strategy more broadly

We applaud and thank you for taking a concerted effort to prioritize the skilled trades and commitment to implementing and sustaining meaningful change in the system. These sentiments have also been shared with us by many of the stakeholders we engaged during our appointment, all of whom are awaiting the ministry’s next steps as a result of our review and look forward to continued discussions as the ministry moves forward with implementation.

Thank you, Minister McNaughton, for the opportunity to do this important work. We look forward to meeting with you to discuss our report.

Jennifer Green, Adam Melnick and Andrew Pariser
Apprenticeship Youth Advisors

Context for action

Projections suggest that prior to the COVID‑19 pandemic, Ontario was facing a potential skills shortage. In 2019, Ontario employers had an average of 200,000 job openings across all occupations and industries – with 13,000 in the construction sector alone.

As the province moves towards economic recovery, industry is continuing to flag potential skilled trade shortages due to the current aging workforce and increasing retirements on the horizon. The average age of an apprentice in Ontario is 29, while nearly one in three journeypersons was aged 55 years and over in 2016. For the coming years (up until 2028), Ontario needs to attract an additional 26,000+ workers from other industries or from outside the province to create the labour market flexibility necessary to continue delivering projects in a timely matter.footnote 1 The 2019–2028 outlook for Ontario projects overall employment will be sustained at high levels over the decade, driven by continued investments in public transportation and infrastructure to keep pace with a growing population.

The aging workforce, combined with low student transitions to the apprenticeship system, lack of diversity in the apprenticeship system, as demonstrated by the low percentage of apprentices from underrepresented groups, and peak demand for public infrastructure projects, demonstrate the need for immediate action. Reducing the skilled trades gap is a priority across government. Critical to preparing Ontario for the future of work is to create more supportive pathways into the skilled trades and attract new apprentices.

As part of the transformation of the skilled trades and apprenticeship system, the government committed to lead consultations with industry and stakeholders and provide recommendations on ways to modernize the skilled trades and apprenticeship system to help fill skills shortages and deliver seamless, integrated client-focused systems to better connect job seekers, workers and employers.

With the COVID‑19 pandemic and the ongoing impact on businesses throughout the province, prospective and current apprentices face challenges seeking reemployment due to wide-spread closures and lay-offs. Within this current climate, Ontario needs to be responsive to youth seeking to enter the system.

Our mandate

On August 27, 2020, we were appointed as Apprenticeship Youth Advisors, part-time special advisors to the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD). To consult with stakeholders and provide advice and recommendations to the Minister on increasing the engagement of young people in the skilled trades and addressing the stigma associated with pursuing a career in the skilled trades.

The following were our key mandate priorities:

  1. Breaking the stigma associated with pursuing a career in the skilled trades through earlier intervention and improved awareness in earlier years.
  2. Identifying the barriers, including systemic barriers preventing all youth and especially those from groups that are traditionally under-represented in the skilled trades, including visible and non-visible minorities, women, and exploring strategies to encourage their participation in apprenticeship training.
  3. Improving access into apprenticeship by establishing clear, streamlined pathways to apprenticeship and identifying opportunities to develop new and enhance existing pathways programs for elementary and secondary students (such as the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program and Dual Credits).
  4. Supporting the retention of apprentices and successful completionfootnote 2 of an apprenticeship program, including improved transitions to careers in the skilled trades that meet the labour force needs of employers, including small to medium-sized businesses impacted by COVID‑19. See Appendix A for our Terms of Reference .

Ministry support

To successfully deliver on our mandate to consult broadly, the MLTSD secretariat team supported us and offered policy, program and administrative support. During the first month of our appointments, the secretariat team provided onboarding support and briefings to orient us to the government’s existing initiatives and commitment to transform the skilled trades and apprenticeship system.

We were briefed on the key components of MLTSD Skilled Trades Strategy (including pathway programs such as the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program and Pre- Apprenticeship Program), the Ministry of Education’s Technology, Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Plan, MLTSD Apprenticeship Digital Transformation Plan, and other government priorities connected to employment and training in the skilled trades through the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility, Chief Prevention Office, and the Premier’s Council on Equity and Opportunity.


  • footnote[1] Back to paragraph BuildForce Canada. Construction & Maintenance Looking Forward, 2019
  • footnote[2] Back to paragraph Completion of an apprenticeship program means the attainment of the highest level of certification available within a given trade, a Certificate of Qualification for applicable trades or a Certificate of Apprenticeship for the applicable trades.