A. Message from the chair

Ontario’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system is a vital component of Ontario’s economy. One hundred and forty-four (144) trades offer rewarding careers to the people of Ontario, and benefit employers across the province. Yet we need to encourage an even greater number of apprentices and employers to participate in the system. Our advice and recommendations to the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development (Minister) focus on systems and the means to achieve this outcome.

Since 2013, Ontario’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system has been largely administered by two entities – the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) and provincial government. This co-delivery system has led to challenges for the skilled trades, apprentices and employers. Our Panel was tasked with making recommendations on “what should stay and what should go” in a new service delivery model.

In undertaking this review, my co-panelists and I are keenly aware of the legacy of the experts who have come before us, including Tim Armstrong (2008), Kevin Whitaker (2009), and Tony Dean (2015). Their reports contributed to significant change in the way skilled trades and apprenticeship are governed in Ontario. We carefully reviewed their reports, recommendations and warnings before we met with the various stakeholders who graciously offered their thoughts and suggestions.

What became almost immediately clear was that stakeholders had two key concerns. They had reservations about some aspects of the skilled trades system administered by OCOT. They were equally concerned about a possible return to a system in which the Ontario government would manage day-to-day operations. Many stakeholders recalled pre-OCOT days when multiple government ministries were involved in various aspects of the system. This included involvement in curriculum and standards, compliance and enforcement, scheduling in-class training and certification exams. These stakeholders also felt industry did not have a significant enough voice in decisions that profoundly affected them.

Based on everything we heard and read, it became clear neither a co-delivery, nor government-managed model, should prevail. As a result, we recommend the establishment of a Crown agency that would be governed by a competency-based Board of Directors, accountable to the Minister. We also recommend training and certification be separated from compliance and enforcement. This means a new Crown agency would focus on training and certification. Compliance and enforcement would be overseen by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. The ministry’s occupational health and safety inspectorate (OHS Inspectorate) would enforce the requirements and ensure workplaces were in compliance. The basis for our recommendations, and additional detail, are set out in our report.

I would like to thank the individuals and organizations from across the province that met with us, provided answers to our consultation questions, and offered insight, either in virtual meetings or written submissions. Your participation in the review was enormously helpful and positive. Special thanks to the groups of apprentices who took time out of busy schedules to meet with us and share their stories. This included their successes and the obstacles they have encountered in Ontario’s apprenticeship system. Your feedback is a keen reminder of who these recommendations will benefit in the future.

I would also like to express my thanks and appreciation to the Panel Secretariat, and ministry staff who supported us during the review. Your decades of expertise involving the skilled trades and apprenticeship system in Ontario was invaluable to our work.

A special note of thanks to my co-panelists, each of whom offered a unique vantage point. You generously contributed your wisdom, experience, and passion for the skilled trades and apprenticeship system. Through thoughtful and engaged discussion, we carefully considered all the feedback received, and weighed the merits of every argument, to determine what would work best for apprentices, the industry and employers. Together, we reached consensus on every item on which we were asked to make a recommendation.

Our hope is that these recommendations will strengthen the skilled trades and apprenticeship system, improving its capacity to contribute to the economy and quality of life of Ontario residents.

Michael G. Sherrard
Chair, Skilled Trades Panel

B. Background

The ministry is working to transform and modernize the skilled trades and apprenticeship system. This is recognition of the critical role skilled trades plays in Ontario’s economy.

An opportunity exists to strengthen the skilled trades and apprenticeship system, and launch a strategy that includes a:

  • new service delivery model to replace the current co-delivery model, and enable the wind-down of the OCOT and
  • regulatory and policy framework to support the new model, including statutory amendments that, if passed, would maintain the classification of trades as either compulsory or non-compulsory, and remove restricted activities.

C. Mandate

The Panel was appointed for a period of nine months, from September 2020 to June 2021.

The Panel was asked to engage with stakeholders and provide advice and recommendations to the Minister that reflect a broad industry perspective, are responsive to the diverse nature of the skilled trades in Ontario and will modernize the skilled trades and apprenticeship system. This work contributes to Ontario’s Skilled Trades Strategy.

The mandate of the Panel is divided into two phases:

Phase 1:

To provide recommendations on a new service delivery model to replace the current co-delivery model of OCOT and ministry. Specifically, the Panel was asked to advise on the functions which should be retained and delivered by the ministry (or delivered through another entity). It was also asked to report on the functions which could be eliminated.

Phase 2:

To provide recommendations on matters involving classification of trades and training of tradespeople, including:

  • the criteria and process for trade prescription and de-prescription
  • the criteria and process for trade classification and reclassification, and
  • initiatives that complement the training of tradespeople.

Phase 1 recommendations form the body of this report. It is anticipated the Panel will begin engagement on its Phase 2 work in early 2021.

D. The panel’s consultation framework

The Ontario government announced the appointment of the Panel on October 7, 2020. Shortly thereafter, the Panel began to reach out to a broad range of industry stakeholders, including skilled tradespeople, apprentices, training delivery agents, unions, businesses (of all sizes), associations and individuals and organizations from each of the four trade sectors: construction, industrial, motive power and service.

The Panel also reviewed research reports from organizations such as the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, inter-jurisdictional scans on topics relevant for this phase of work, and historical information. This included previously commissioned reports involving Ontario’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system.

Ministry staff provided policy and administrative support to the Panel.

E. The panel’s discussion questions

  • What should be the role of industry advisory committees?
  • How could improvements be made to the trade equivalency assessment process, while also maintaining both fairness and rigour?
  • What should be the guiding principles for compliance and enforcement? What should be considered for the compliance and enforcement policy which will guide ministry activities?
  • Should a public register be continued in the new model? If so, which features are important to a public register?
  • How might digital tools and resources better support skilled trades and apprenticeship clients in starting, progressing through and completing an apprenticeship program, and maintaining their certification, once complete?

F. Summary of what the panel heard

Throughout the submissions, research and discussions, a number of themes emerged:

A valued role and continued voice for stakeholders in the skilled trades and apprenticeship system.

Many stakeholders reiterate their commitment and desire to participate in, and advise on, various aspects of the skilled trades and apprenticeship system to modernize, streamline and update Ontario’s system.

The consultations with apprentices, tradespeople, unions, employers and trainers highlighted the importance of considering their on-the-ground experience in all aspects of the system.

Harmonize processes and terminology with other Canadian jurisdictions.

There is room for improvement even though the current trade equivalency assessment process is working well. Ontario should focus its efforts on harmonizing processes and terminology with its counterparts across Canada and internationally.

This alignment will assist with labour mobility and improved evidence-based labour market data. In addition, the Panel heard some support for additional practical skills demonstrations as part of the trade equivalency assessment process.

A skilled trades governance structure based outside of government, but accountable to the Minister.

Stakeholders express concern about a potential return to the pre-OCOT system, where the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities was responsible for the design, delivery and implementation of skilled trades and apprenticeship programs, policies, and services.

The layers of bureaucracy resulted in a system that was not agile, or responsive to stakeholder concerns. Issues raised by stakeholders would often get lost in the system or take too long to be addressed. Industry had few channels through which to provide input, despite their central role as drivers of the skilled trades and apprenticeship system.

According to some stakeholders, one of the most effective features of OCOT is the prominent voice industry was given through OCOT’s trade boards and divisional boards. However, the panel also heard there were too many of these committees, their structure was too rigid, and they became administratively difficult to manage and populate, unnecessarily slowing the decision-making process. There is significant stakeholder support for bodies that represent industry being involved in the design of program standards, for instance, or in other decisions that affect the sector as a whole.

Continue the Public Register

Stakeholders overwhelmingly support continuation of a public register for individuals training or certified in compulsory trades. They also support a register that would better enable transparency, accountability and support for compliance and enforcement in the trades. Suggestions regarding content included Red Seal status, years of practical experience, while removing fee payment status. A small minority of the stakeholders suggest the discontinuation of the register due to potential privacy concerns and misuse of the register.

Digitize and streamline skilled trades services at all stages of the process

Stakeholders overwhelmingly support the creation of digital tools to streamline and modernize how services are delivered. We heard there should be a heightened focus on the primary client (the apprentice) and the importance of a single window of access for timely, reliable, and consistent information. The digital system should improve the registration process, scheduling of in-school training, digital logbooks, exam booking, and certification. Apprentice sponsors also indicate a desire to have more access to their apprentices’ progress. There is also consensus that increased digitization is welcome – and expected – by youth and young adults considering skilled trades careers.

Each of these themes is addressed in the Panel’s recommendations below.

G. Vision for a new system

Guiding principles:

  • Clarity – minimize duplication and create a single point of access
  • Continuity – ensure high-quality services during the first phase of transition
  • Efficiency – ensure high-quality, streamlined and uninterrupted client service while reducing duplication and regulatory burden, and
  • Long-term transformation – lay the foundation for a fully modernized service delivery model that works for apprentices, skilled tradespeople and the industry at large

What will success look like?

The success of the new system will be measured by its ability to:

  • build Ontario’s highly skilled workforce
  • close the skills gap in a sustainable manner
  • respond to the needs of the clients of the system (e.g., apprentices, journeypersons, employers) and
  • keep the people of Ontario safe

H. Recommendations

Crown agency

To ensure the skilled trades and apprenticeship system meets the needs of the people of Ontario there must be a fresh model of stewardship.

The Modernizing the Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2019 (MSTAA) has two fundamental policy objectives:

  • apprenticeship training and certification for skilled trades in four sectors and
  • public safety and consumer protection.

The present co-delivery of this statutory mandate (through OCOT and the ministry) has not been successful. While perhaps well intended, at times OCOT was paralyzed by its bureaucracy and the lack of clear direction. Its governance structure contributed significantly to this, allowing particular groups and stakeholders to dominate the system. Stakeholders acknowledged challenges with OCOT. However, the Panel also heard there was no desire to return to the system that existed prior to OCOT.

We must learn from these lessons and refocus our attention on the skilled trades system as a whole. At the same time, we should encourage the continued, valuable input of stakeholders.

The ministry is a key funder of the skilled trades system. Representing the people of Ontario, the ministry should retain a fundamental role, enabling it to set strategic goals and drive accountability.

The Panel recommends the establishment of a Crown agency. It would be accountable to the Minister who is responsible for apprenticeship training and certification. The Crown agency would be governed by a Board of Directors appointed by the Ontario government (Lieutenant Governor in Council). The appointees would reflect competencies aligned with legislative objectives. A Chief Executive Officer (CEO) would be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor to lead the Crown agency.

The Panel further recommends that training and certification be separated from compliance and enforcement. The Crown agency would focus on training and certification. The ministry would oversee compliance and enforcement through its OHS Inspectorate.

The following recommendations directly respond to discussion questions posed to stakeholders.

A role for industry

Question 1: What should be the role of industry advisory committees?

Context:

The Minister has the authority to appoint industry committees under the Modernizing the Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2019 (MSTAA). These committees can advise on any matter related to the MSTAA and its regulations. Industry needs to continue to play a leadership role in advising government on all aspects of training and certification for skilled trades and apprentices. Specifically, there is strong support for industry advisory committees to respond to issues involving trade standards, assessments, training, emerging labour market trends, regional differences and advancements in technology.

It is essential industry be directly involved in decision-making on issues that affect them the most. This includes the need for input from employers, employees, union and non-union, apprentices, journeypersons, and trainers. This consideration is, in part, what led the Panel to the idea of an independent agency, accountable to the Minister, with a clear focus on apprenticeship training and certification.

Stakeholder feedback:

There is strong support for industry advisory committees to ensure input from those with firsthand experience in training and curriculum standards. It is generally agreed increased industry involvement would improve the system’s ability to respond to emerging labour market trends, regional differences and technological advancements.

A majority of stakeholders recommend the committees be industry-led, external to government and appropriately resourced.

Stakeholders also note that OCOT’s overly complex governance structure acts as a barrier to timely decision-making. Stakeholders say Trade Boards work better than Provincial Advisory Committees. However, they note Trade Boards require significant improvement. Just over one-third of stakeholders commented on Trade Boards. Most of these stakeholders say Trade Boards should be continued in the new system. Many suggest various configurations and functions for Trade Boards. However, they say their prime purpose should be to provide relevant industry representation for the respective trade.

Some stakeholders suggest a role for industry committees in updating scopes of practice.

Other comparable models:

A variety of industry advisory committee models exist in Ontario and other jurisdictions (see Appendix 2). Several reflect the Panel’s recommendation to establish sector-based standing committees to provide strategic advice and recommendations, while ensuring relevant industry representation.

Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) Committees (Ontario)

The Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) assembles various health and safety committees. These committees have industry representation and operate at the provincial, regional, trade and sector levels. They provide industry with an opportunity to raise and resolve health and safety issues.

OHSA section 21 committees (Ontario)

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) enables the Minister to appoint advisory committees to provide information and advice to the Minister on health and safety legislative matters. These committees are known as Section 21 committees.

Nova Scotia

The Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency (NSAA) was established in 2014 as a Crown agency. The NSAA is operated under the authority of the Apprenticeship and Trades Qualifications Act and is authorized to manage the trades training and certification in Nova Scotia. Some specific functions include communicating with stakeholders and promoting participation in the apprenticeship and trades qualifications system. The agency also informs policy decisions involving Nova Scotia’s apprenticeship and trades qualifications system.

British Columbia

Established in 2003, the Industry Training Authority (ITA) is a Crown corporation that governs and manages British Columbia’s trades training and certification system. The ITA works with employers, apprentices, industry, labour, training providers and government to issue credentials, manage apprenticeships, fund programs, set program standards and increase opportunities in the trades.

Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission (SATCC) was established as a Corporation and Agent of the Crown by Saskatchewan’s Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Act in 1999. A board of 20 or fewer members is appointed by the provincial government and assembled to perform a wide range of duties from making regulations to establishing fees for services.

Recommendations:

Industry advisory committees:
  • Empower the Board of the Crown agency to establish, as required:
    • sector-based standing committees (industrial, construction, motive power and service) to provide advice and recommendations to the Board on strategic and system-wide matters. Strategic priorities would be set by the Board.
  • Empower the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Crown agency to establish, as required:
    • trade-based committees to provide advice on matters relevant to a trade, or group of trades, such as apprenticeship program standards and Red Seal trade updates.
    • each committee will be provided Terms of Reference.
    • committee composition will depend on the respective Terms of Reference and prioritize appropriate competencies and industry representation.

Trade equivalency assessments

Question 2: How could improvements be made to the trade equivalency assessment process, while also maintaining both fairness and rigour?

Context:

The trade equivalency assessment (TEA) process is for experienced tradespeople who have not completed an Ontario apprenticeship, but have equivalent qualifications and experience in a trade. This can include tradespeople in international skilled trades, journeypersons from other Canadian jurisdictions and apprentices from other Canadian jurisdictions. People undergoing the TEA process want to become eligible to challenge the certification examination. Their goal is to obtain an Ontario Certificate of Qualification (C of Q).

While the present TEA process is working well, there are areas for improvement. Administration and support of trade equivalency assessments, with oversight and maintenance, are critical to ensuring business continuity of service delivery as we transition to a new system. Additionally, we need to maintain Ontario’s commitment to the labour mobility protocols, and Red Seal program. This includes participation in the development of national occupational standards, Red Seal examinations and trades harmonization.

Ontario plays an important role in harmonization efforts through participation and involvement with the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship, along with other Canadian jurisdictions. Some progress has been made in recent years, including ongoing work on implementing a practical examination for the hairstylist trade. Continued collaborative efforts are essential to improving labour mobility channels.

Stakeholder feedback:

Overall, the Panel heard the current TEA process is working well, but that it should be more streamlined and accessible. Potential areas for improvement include ensuring assessment processes that:

  • support ongoing harmonization efforts within Canada to improve labour mobility and
  • are both flexible and efficient, while using reliable and consistent data.

Stakeholders recommend the equivalency assessment process be based on current and accessible labour market information and demand across Canada.

Many stakeholders strongly support the idea of a practical, trade-specific skills demonstration option in cases where documents to assess equivalency are missing. Some even support trade-specific skills demonstrations to evaluate the qualifications of all tradespeople, rather than relying on exams, as a way of making the system more accessible to some groups (i.e. newcomers, Indigenous groups, etc.)

Some stakeholders suggest streamlining the assessment of international applications from jurisdictions with well-established skilled trades systems.

Recommendations:

General:
  • While the current TEA process works relatively well, there is still room for improvement.
  • The TEA process should continue under the Crown agency.
  • The assessment process should retain rigour and integrity.
TEA process improvements:
  • Explore potential improvements to the TEA process, supporting changing workforce needs without compromising industry training standards:
    • improve the assessment review protocols for Ontario applicants
    • expand these protocols to applicants (including apprentices) from other Canadian jurisdictions and
    • explore opportunities to streamline the process for candidates from countries where Ontario most frequently and regularly receives successful TEA applicants.
  • The Crown agency should explore a “demonstration of skills” approach for compulsory trades. This would be in addition to a training and experience assessment, prior to receiving approval to take the Certificate of Qualification exam.
  • The TEA process should ensure Red Seal applicants are approved to practice their trade in Ontario in a more efficient manner, aligned with the Canada Free Trade Agreement (labour mobility components).
  • Based on a growing need for skilled trades in Ontario, enhance efforts to harmonize with, and/or better recognize, the skilled trades and apprenticeship systems with other Canadian provinces and globally. This includes recognition of prior learning and on-the-job experience.
  • The TEA process needs to be better prepared to recognize the prior learning and on-the-job experience of apprentices from other Canadian jurisdictions. This involves:
    • improving cooperation among all stakeholders
    • enhancing employer awareness of apprentices available in other jurisdictions and recognition of their prior experience, and
    • harmonizing training protocols to better support the use of in-class exemption tests.
  • There should be a commitment to increased TEA resources.

Compliance and enforcement

Question 3: What should be the guiding principles for compliance and enforcement? What should be considered for the compliance and enforcement policy which will guide ministry activities?

Context:

Compliance and enforcement should be formalized in a publicly available, broader policy framework that is transparent, defensible and predictable. This approach would build on current best practices and how the compliance and enforcement system has evolved. The public interest should be taken into account. This would include considering the risk of harm in the enforcement of compulsory trades, and a risk-based, data-driven approach to the overall regulation of enforcement.

Ontario has taken some initial steps to modernize compliance and enforcement through amendments to the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009 (OCTAA) to incorporate best practices (e.g. a requirement for a compliance and enforcement policy). The Panel understands administrative compliance tools such as Notices of Contravention and Compliance Orders have been implemented for use by ministry employment standards inspectors, along with corresponding administrative monetary penalties (AMPs).

AMPs have been increasingly adopted by regulators across the country. They are a civil penalty that secures compliance with legislation and/or seeks to prevent non-compliant people from benefitting from non-compliance. Because they are civil and not quasi-criminal, they do not place the same burden on the increasingly backlogged judicial system. These tools are fairly new to Ontario’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system, but common in other modernized compliance frameworks in Ontario (e.g. Employment Standards Act).

Stakeholder feedback:

A majority of stakeholders support ongoing compliance and enforcement. However, many recommend the need for a policy framework to provide guidance.

There is no general consensus regarding compliance and enforcement. Several stakeholders suggest compliance and enforcement should focus on whether the person doing the work is a registered apprentice or if they have a Certificate of Qualification in the compulsory trade in which they are working. Others recommend a risk-of-harm approach.

No one explicitly says compliance and enforcement should remain with the entity that has stewardship of training and certification. However, several stakeholders recommend compliance and enforcement be separated from a training and certification focus.

A number of stakeholders recommend a continued voice for industry on compliance and enforcement matters through Industry Advisory Committees.

There is recognition multiple regulators exist, and that greater coordination and less duplication of activities (e.g. reduce red tape) are needed.

There are divergent opinions from stakeholders on the use of the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) and the Technical Safety Standards Authority (TSSA) as enforcement bodies under the Modernizing the Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2019, as opposed to using the OHS Inspectorate. A very small number of stakeholders suggest compliance and enforcement should be delegated to the Electrical Safety Authority and Technical Safety Standards Authority.

Some stakeholders recommend compliance and enforcement activities under the Modernizing the Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2019 be government-led through the ministry, with access to information from other bodies such as the Electrical Safety Authority and Technical Safety Standards Authority. By contrast, a very small number of stakeholders prefer compliance and enforcement be external to government.

Lastly, of those stakeholders who commented on the Ontario Labour Relations Boards (OLRB) and reviews, just over half suggest the OLRB is the appropriate adjudicative tribunal for reviews of Notice of Contraventions. Some stakeholders support a return to a Provincial Offences Act ticket-based system, with oversight by the Provincial Courts. A majority of stakeholders support a risk-of-harm lens for enforcement. A minority, primarily in the compulsory trades, support scopes of practices as the basis for enforcement activities.

Recommendations:

General:
  • The compliance and enforcement framework, as presently set out in the Modernizing the Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2019 (MSTAA), should continue.
  • The new Crown agency should focus on training and certification.
  • Compliance and enforcement should be the responsibility of the Ministry’s OHS Inspectorate. This recognizes the compliance and enforcement expertise that exists within the Ministry, through the OHS Inspectorate, and the robust planning, research and prioritizing the OHS Inspectorate employs to support its enforcement activities. All of this could be leveraged to better ensure compliance and enforcement of theMSTAA.
  • The OHS Inspectorate must be sufficiently resourced and trained to deliver on the compliance and enforcement objectives of the MSTAA.
  • External regulatory bodies such as the Electrical Safety Authority and the Technical Safety Standards Authority should continue to carry out their respective mandates under their enabling statutes and make available relevant information to the OHS Inspectorate in support of a modernized regulatory approach.
  • Consistent with the Government’s ongoing efforts to modernize regulatory compliance, there should be ongoing dialogue with all regulators to ensure coordinated compliance and enforcement efforts (e.g., reduced red tape, coordination as opposed to duplication, the Regulatory Modernization Act, 2007, etc.).
Compliance and enforcement policy:
  • The Modernizing the Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2019 should be amended to require a clear compliance and enforcement policy (see Section 11.1of the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009). This would be made public.
  • The compliance and enforcement policy should align with the compliance continuum (e.g., OHS compliance continuum).
  • Risk of harm must remain a guiding principle for the compliance and enforcement policy (in alignment with previous reports and recommendations).
  • The policy should be reviewed by a standing advisory committee, similar to Section 21 committees under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). The committee should include industry stakeholders and representation from the Board of Directors of the Crown agency, as appointed by the Minister. Advice and recommendations would be submitted to the Minister.
  • To foster a culture of compliance, consider recognizing or accrediting an employer that consistently demonstrates compliance (similar to the Supporting Ontario’s Safe Employers Program).

Review body:

  • There must be a right to challenge enforcement actions of the OHS Inspectorate under the Modernizing the Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2019 (MSTAA) and its regulations.
  • A review of a Notice of Contravention should be to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB), as required under Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009. The OLRB’s expertise is recognized by the majority of Ontario’s workplace and employment statutes (see Appendix 3). This also aligns with previous reports and recommendations.
  • The OLRB should be empowered to interpret, apply and be guided by the MSTAA and its regulations when reviewing a Notice of Contravention.
  • For Notice of Contravention reviews, particularly in the construction industry, the government should leverage the prior reports, and be guided by them, when informing the OLRB of the factors to be considered.
  • The same standing advisory committee (mentioned above) should review Notices of Contravention (and reviews contesting Notices of Contravention) no less than every three years and provide relevant advice and recommendations to the Minister.

Public register

Question 4: Should a public register be continued in the new model? If so, which features are important to a public register?

Context:

The Public Register is an online tool that provides a way for the public (including employers, consumers and other regulators) to validate the certification status of a journeyperson and/or apprentice in Ontario. This function is a requirement under the new legislative framework (Modernizing the Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2019).

At present the Register displays (among other things):

  • trade details, type of certificate
  • status of an apprentice or journeyperson in their trade
  • terms, conditions and limitations on status or certificate(s), where applicable

Stakeholder feedback:

A majority of stakeholders strongly support and endorsement the continuation of a Public Register in Ontario because it:

  • contributes to transparency and accountability, and
  • supports compliance and enforcement activities

Many stakeholders note the register is a valuable tool to validate training and certification of compulsory trades. There is no compelling reason to include voluntary trades on the Register.

A few stakeholders recommend:

  • expanding the Register to identify tradespeople who are licensed to work in other provinces and territories (e.g., Red Seal) to promote labour mobility
  • adding valuable information such as years of practical experience and Red Seal status, and
  • a more robust search engine

A minority recommend complete removal of the Register.

Other jurisdictions:

Through interjurisdictional research it was confirmed that many of the provinces use similar means to verify the credentials of journeypersons and apprentices, with most of the inquiries submitted in person, by telephone or email. Ontario and British Columbia are the only provinces that provide this service online. Most provinces provide similar detail to the public about the apprentice/journeyperson when requested. Many require prior consent from the tradesperson before information can be released. A full jurisdictional scan can be found in the Appendices.

Recommendations:

  • A Public Register should only provide information to the public on apprentices and journeypersons in compulsory trades to enable the verification of an individual’s license to work (certificate type), and status (active/inactive).
  • The Crown agency should make efforts to clarify to the public that the purpose of the Register is to verify training or certification only.
  • The following information should be made available through the Public Register:
  • name of individual
  • compulsory trade name
  • training or certification status and whether the individual is active or inactive
  • Red Seal endorsement (52 trades in Ontario), as applicable
  • Regarding use of terms, conditions and limitations of certificates, the Crown agency should provide advice and recommendations prior to the establishment of a regulation.

Digital services

Question 5: How might digital tools and resources better support skilled trades and apprenticeship clients in starting, progressing through and completing an apprenticeship program, and maintaining their certification, once complete?

Context:

The government, as announced in the 2019 Ontario Budget, is moving towards a client-focused digital delivery channel that will empower skilled trades and apprentices. The channel will allow them to easily manage their journeys so they can seamlessly start, progress through and complete an apprenticeship program, and maintain certification once qualified.

Digital service delivery is key to the new system being recommended, and improving overall user experience.

Stakeholder feedback:

There is general recognition that the current co-delivery model has resulted in tremendous confusion across the system – from stewardship and governance to service delivery. This confusion is compounded by the fact that so many simple functions are still being done in person, and on paper, when they could be achieved digitally.

Many stakeholders note the complex nature of the skilled trades and apprenticeship system, with different bodies being responsible for different things, and the absence of a single, reliable source of information through which to access basic services (such as administrative records and history) or find connections to employers, sponsors and training.

Numerous stakeholders complain that apprentices and journeypersons must register with the ministry and also become a member of OCOT through separate processes. They also complain that scheduling in-class schooling and exams is complicated and cumbersome, and there is no easy way to track an apprentice’s progress through the system. Several stakeholders suggest logbooks should be digital. Digitization (including through a mobile app) would improve the situation.

There is also consensus that increased digitization is welcomed and expected by target clients. This includes youth and young adults considering the skilled trades.

Many stakeholders offer recommendations on how digital tools could better support skilled trades and apprenticeship clients. As well, several of those stakeholders indicate logbooks and increased digitization would assist apprentices and sponsors in understanding, in a timely manner, where they are on the apprenticeship pathway. Some of the stakeholders say a digital solution must provide a single source of information and services, as well as ease of access to clients’ administrative records and history. A number of stakeholders suggest a new digital solution should also assist with better managing in-school training scheduling, while a few stakeholders specifically indicated the benefits of offering a mobile app.

There is also a note of caution that digital tools are only enablers. There must be a more robust support structure. This includes experienced staff to provide knowledgeable, timely support to stakeholders.

Other jurisdictions:

A jurisdictional scan was performed to look at systems and services delivered in other provinces. Eight provinces – British Columbia. Alberta, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and Saskatchewan – have online systems developed or in development that support their skilled trades and apprenticeship programs. Services supported by these systems include the ability to register online, access program information, manage programs, check transcripts, enter training hours and pay for fees online.

Past stakeholder engagement:

Between 2017 and present, the ministry conducted in-depth user research to better understand the service delivery experience for apprentices. Several key insights emerged:

  • Poor access to reliable information, communications and guidance navigating the system is a barrier to both apprentices and sponsors.
  • There is a significant lack of awareness surrounding financial incentives.
  • There is a high demand from clients for access to online information and resources.
  • Existing online tools and resources are distributed and do not meet the needs of clients.
  • There is a need for a centralized, easy-to-navigate, registration process.
  • The current in-class training model is a major pain point for both apprentices and sponsors.

See Appendix 4 for further details.

Recommendations:

General:
  • the Panel endorses the government’s ongoing efforts to digitize all aspects of service delivery for the skilled trades and apprenticeship system
  • a Request for Bids for a digital solution was released on November 19, 2020 and the Panel supports the continuation of the procurement process
  • the new Crown agency should obtain stewardship of the digital portal once it is created, with appropriate transition mechanisms in place
  • Digital tools should:
    • be accessible and inclusive
    • support ongoing promotion of careers in the trades, with a primary focus on apprentices
    • support improved coordination and collaboration between the service providers (e.g., Training Delivery Agents) that are part of the apprentice pathway
    • communicate effectively with the digital systems in other jurisdictions; and
    • Include mobile optimization features, such as a mobile app.
  • Government should consider ways in which to encourage stakeholders to buy into the use of digital tools (e.g., create a digital feature that allows employers to find and hire new apprentices).
Digital information:
  • While it is not possible to prepare a complete and exhaustive list of the type and nature of information to be made available digitally, at the very least the following information should be considered. The digital system should:
  • be an “easy to navigate,” trusted “one window” vehicle for all information about the skilled trades and apprenticeship system
    • contain links to resources on a full range of trades information in Ontario (e.g., the full lifecycle of a tradesperson) and in each Canadian jurisdiction, and
    • offer 24/7 support because the target audience is young people who work during the day and seek to access the digital information from around the world.
Marketing:
  • All efforts to digitize services should be supported by a robust, sustainable, long-term marketing strategy to promote rewarding careers in the trades and reduce the accompanying stigma.
  • Government has always had an important role to play in promoting skilled trades careers. Any future stewardship role should be supported by a coordinated approach by the various participants responsible for skilled trades and apprenticeship promotion (e.g. school boards, Skills Ontario, etc.).
  • The employer/sponsor community should be considered when it comes to promoting careers in the trades – how employers can be supported in becoming champions for potential new apprentices.

Stakeholder feedback on areas outside mandate

In addition to the feedback on the discussion questions, stakeholders provided the following insights:

System-wide challenges:

  • Some stakeholders indicate a need for increased flexibility when it comes to the funding framework for Training Delivery Agents (e.g. block funding versus seat purchase), enabling Training Delivery Agents to take on more apprentices.
  • Stakeholders point to a lack of centralized access to information about careers in the trades. This is particularly problematic for people who lack connections or family in the trades. Such people may also be actively discouraged from entering a career in the trades (especially women).
  • Some stakeholders suggest employers need improved resources on how to support apprentices.
  • A few stakeholders raise concerns about the underground economy and workplaces employing individuals who don’t register as apprentices.

Apprentice supports:

  • Some stakeholders highlight the need for improved mentor training for journeypersons and apprentices outside of work. That mentoring should also include a focus on workplace harassment prevention training as well as working on ways to ensure workplaces are more inclusive (training for journeypersons to understand different types of lived experiences).
  • Some apprentices experience inconsistencies in the system (e.g. the caliber of instruction for in-class training, not being told by their employer where they could access their logbooks).
  • A significant number of apprentices spoke about difficulties in securing an employer sponsor and not finding the existing job bank website very helpful.

Employer supports:

  • Some stakeholder groups struggle with how to encourage employers/sponsors to take on apprentices, especially small- to medium-sized businesses.
  • Some employer stakeholders raise concerns about being able to retain apprentices once they are fully trained.
  • Stakeholders indicate the system must allow for regional needs.
  • Consortium models may be useful in regional, remote areas to support smaller employers, while administration support and funding would be needed for these types of models.
  • Small- to medium-sized employers face unique challenges and may require additional supports when compared to larger corporations.

Appendix 1 – Stakeholder Types Consulted – Sector Representation

Stakeholder Types Consulted – Sector Representation
Stakeholder Type Construction Industrial Motive Power Service All Sectors Total
Employer Association 17 1 4 4 5 31
Employee Union 14 1 1 1 N/A 17
Individuals
(including 2 sessions with apprentices, with 15 apprentices participating in total)
3 1 4 4 4 16
Post Secondary Education / Training 0 0 1 0 3 4
Employer 0 1 2 1 0 4
Regulator 1 0 0 1 0 2
Research Body 0 0 0 0 1 1
Vendor 1 0 0 0 0 1
Total 35 4 12 11 14 76

Appendix 2 – Jurisdictional Scan: Other Governance Models

Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) Committees (Ontario)

The Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) assembles various health and safety committees. These committees have industry representation and operate at the provincial, regional, and trade and sector levels. They provide industry with an opportunity to raise and resolve health and safety issues.

Each of the specific IHSA committees report to a provincial committee, which annually solicits feedback on the legislative changes they recommend. Two Section 21 committees – detailed below – are hosted by IHSA. One is for the construction sector and one is for the electrical sector. The committees are structured so that its members can advise on health and safety needs for Ontario. Their members can help shape health and safety legislation in the province through the organization’s two provincial labour-management committees

OHSA section 21 committees (Ontario)

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) enables the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) to appoint advisory committees to provide information and advice to the Minister on health and safety legislative matters, known as Section 21 committees.

Historically, Section 21 committees were formed for sectors or industries that do not fall under a specific workplace regulation (e.g. fire services, film and television production, police) and have unique health and safety hazards. Section 21 committees may make recommendations to the ministry for regulatory amendments. Some have specific mandates to recommend regulatory changes. They primarily focus on health and safety issues and emerging issues within a specified sector. They produce guidance documents and recommendations on dealing with hazards in their specific sectors.

Section 21 committees are representative of the various industries within a specific sector because they are comprised of an equal number of representatives from management and labour. Respective employer and worker organizations select their own representatives for the committee. Section 21 committees have written Terms of Reference outlining their objectives, membership, duties and responsibilities and meeting frequency. Section 21 committees are one source of input into regulatory change under the OHSA. Their role in the regulatory process is unique to the ministry.

Nova Scotia

The Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency (NSAA) was established in 2014 as a Crown agency. The NSAA is responsible for a variety of functions. This includes communicating with stakeholders and promoting participation in the apprenticeship and trades qualifications system. It also includes informing policy decisions involving the apprenticeship and trades qualifications system. The agency is also responsible for liaising with provincial and inter-provincial partners. It also develops apprenticeship and trades qualifications system regulations, policies and procedures. In addition, the agency administers and ensures compliance with the apprenticeship and trades qualifications system.

The agency is composed of an industry-led Apprenticeship Board, committees such as the Trade Advisory Committees, agency staff and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The Apprenticeship Board is comprised of 15 members with a focus on employer/employee balance and representation from the Mi’kmaq community and groups currently under-represented in the system. The Trade Advisory Committees (TACs) are provincial ad hoc advisory committees established by the Apprenticeship Board that advise on policy, regulations and other matters specific to a trade(s), or on any matter assigned to the TACs involving the apprenticeship and trades qualifications system.

The agency staff are responsible for the daily operations of the agency, while the CEO is responsible for its general leadership and management. In addition, the CEO takes direction from the Apprenticeship Board on matters involving the Board’s powers and duties. The CEO is accountable to the Board to communicate its recommendations to the Minister, as well as to advance the goals of the apprenticeship and trades qualifications system.

British Columbia

Established in 2003, the Industry Training Authority (ITA) is a Crown corporation that governs and manages British Columbia’s (B.C.) industry trades’ training and certification system. Its employees are not considered to be employees of the province.

ITA works with employers, apprentices, industry, labour, training providers and government to issue credentials, manage apprenticeships, fund programs, set program standards and increase opportunities in the trades.

ITA is governed by a nine-person Board of Directors appointed by the B.C. government. The directors are part-time. ITA is entirely funded by government and its Board plays a central role in its leadership. While the Board may hire management to conduct day-to-day operations, the Board is ultimately responsible to ensure ITA is successful and achieves its mandate. The Board fulfills its duties by delegating responsibility for the day-to-day operations to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

The Board’s role is one of governance and oversight. The Board’s overall governance role involves a wide range of responsibilities. This includes approving and annually reviewing ITA’s strategic and service plans, and approving annual operating plans, budgets and financial statements. It also includes monitoring and reporting to the ministry on ITA’s performance, ensuring management is qualified, reviewing ITA’s material risks and overseeing a succession planning process to ensure continued leadership.

ITA works with 11 sector advisory groups composed of mostly employers, and some labour (although not in equal numbers) who advise on the needs of their respective industries. These groups provide input on training strategies, labour market demand/forecasts and policy issues.

Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission (SATCC) was established as a Crown corporation by Saskatchewan’s in 1999. Its staff are employees of the province.

A Board of no more than 20 members is appointed by the provincial government and assembled to determine a wide range of responsibilities, from making regulations to establishing fees for services.

All assets and liabilities belong to the government. Most Board members are selected by industry, equally representing employers and employees. The SATCC Board also has representation from Saskatchewan Polytechnic (the primary public institution for post-secondary technical education and skills training), the provincial government and equity groups. The SATCC reports to the Saskatchewan Minister of Immigration and Career Training, who is responsible for the administration of the Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Act.

The SATCC:

  • generates, retains and expends revenues
  • registers apprentices and journeypersons, monitoring their training and providing certification of skill levels achieved
  • determines and charges fees for products and services
  • enters into agreements for training delivery
  • represents Saskatchewan on interprovincial initiatives

The act gives the SATCC the authority to make regulations to ensure the effective and efficient operation of the apprenticeship system to meet the needs of industry in a timely manner. The act also ensures accountability to both industry and government.

The SATCC Board has a committee structure to facilitate the work of the Board and develop recommendations for the Board’s consideration. This includes a standing committee on Trade Board Appointments, as well as ad-hoc committees for appeals, inclusion and program innovation, and standards.

Jurisdictional scan: public register

Most of the provinces interviewed confirmed that they receive inquiries from employers, agencies and other provinces to get information about an individual’s trade status, using similar modes of inquiry: telephone, email and in person. Only one province, British Columbia, has an online verification process in place.

The provinces usually only require a few pieces of information to validate credentials after they have received consent to share information from a tradesperson:

  • first name
  • last name
  • certificate number/type
  • contractor’s trade
  • achieved/issuance date

All provinces typically provide the same list of information in return, verifying that an individual:

  • is a registered apprentice and certified in that trade in that province
  • holds a Certificate of Qualification and/or Red Seal
  • holds a valid Journeyperson certificate

None of the provinces interviewed provided information on disciplinary action.

Province Types of inquirers Info Required to Process Request Information Provided in Return
British Columbia Public Employers
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Certificate Number
  • Contractor’s Trade
  • Verify individual is certified in B.C.
  • Verify their certified trade
  • Verify they have Certificate of Qualification and/or Red Seal
Alberta Public Employers
  • Unable to confirm
  • Verify individual holds valid Journeyperson certificate
  • Verify if individual is registered apprentice
Newfoundland and Labrador Employers only
  • Name
  • Trade
  • Certificate number
  • Date of Birth
  • Validate registered status using information provided
Manitoba Employers Public
  • Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Apprenticeship Reference #
  • Contact info
  • Consent

Any of the following:

  • Completion of apprenticeship and date
  • Journeyperson certificate and date of issue
  • Interprovincial Red Seal and date of issue
  • Practical exam passed
  • Technical training passed
  • Eligible to attempt interprovincial exam
  • Date of interprovincial exam attempts
  • Level of apprenticeship training completed
  • Other (please specify)
Quebec Employers Public
  • Name
  • Social Insurance Number
  • Validate registered status using information provided

Appendix 3 – List of statutes the Ontario Labour Relations Board is responsible For

According to the Ontario Labour Relations Board’s (OLRB) 2019-2020 Annual Report, the OLRB has varying degrees of jurisdiction assigned to it under the following statutes:

  • Ambulance Services Collective Bargaining Act, 2001, S.O. 2001, c.10
  • Colleges Collective Bargaining Act, 2008 S.O. 1990. c.5
  • Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act, 1993, S.O. 1993, c.38
  • Education Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.E.2
  • Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act, 2009, S.O. 2009, c.32
  • Employment Standards Act, 2000, S.O. 2000, c.41
  • Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993, S.O. 1993, c.28
  • Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.E.19, which gives the OLRB jurisdiction under the following legislation:
    • Environmental Assessment Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.E.18
    • Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.E.19        
    • Fisheries Act, R.S.C. 1985, c.F-14
    • Nutrient Management Act, 2002, S.O. 2002, c. 4
    • Ontario Water Resources Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.O.40
    • Pesticides Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.P.11
    • Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002, S.O. 2002, c.32
    • Toxics Reduction Act, 2009, S.O. 2009, c.19
  • Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997, S.O. 1997, c.4
  • Government Contract Wages Act, 2018, S.O., c.92
  • Hospital Labour Disputes Arbitration Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.H.14
  • Labour Relations Act, 1995, S.O. 1995, c.1
  • Local Health System Integration Act, 2006, S.O. 2006, c.4
  • Long Term Care Homes Act, 2007, S.O. 2007, c.8
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.O.1
  • Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009, S.O. 2009, c. 22
  • Ontario Provincial Police Collective Bargaining Act, 2006, S.O. 2006, c.35, Sch. B
  • Protecting Child Performers Act, 2015, S.O. 2015, c.2
  • Public Inquiries Act, 2009, S.O. 2009, c. 33, Sch. 6
  • Public Sector Dispute Resolution Act, 1997, S.O. 1997, c.21, Schedule A
  • Public Sector Labour Relations Transition Act, 1997, S.O. 1997, c. 21, Schedule B
  • Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006, S.O. 2006, c.35, Schedule A
  • Retirement Homes Act, 2010, S.O. 2010, c.11
  • School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2014, S.O. 2014, c.5
  • Smoke-Free Ontario Act, S.O. 1994, c.10
  • Tribunal Adjudicative Records Act 2019, S.O. 2019, c. 7, Sched. 60

Appendix 4 – Details of past user research on digital services

Survey and data analysis

Research tool: Survey and data analysis of 1,734 apprentices who either completed or withdrew from their apprenticeship in 2016-2017.

Findings

Completion factors:

  • Completers are more likely than non-completers to be employed full time and receive higher wages.
  • Monitored apprentices appear more likely to complete their apprenticeship.
  • Most common reason for withdrawal is apprentices decided to pursue more attractive opportunities.
  • Most common barrier to withdrawal is involves personal circumstances or issues with employers, including changes in demand within the industry.

Access to information + communication:

  • Some respondents expressed frustration at finding it difficult to obtain information on rules and responsibilities of their apprenticeship program.
  • Apprentices, who withdrew from a program, suggested government could help apprentices complete a program by improving communication and guidance for them.

Financial incentives:

  • Four out of five apprentices who received incentives and completed their apprenticeship, said the loans or incentives were important to their successful outcome.

Many who withdrew from their apprenticeship indicated they were unaware of the financial support and incentives available to them.

Working sessions

Research tool: A two-part, province-wide working session and five regional working sessions with 340 people representing 127 organizations and three provincial ministries.

Findings

The following recommendations were made:

  • Maintain standards and develop mechanisms for quality control.
  • Increase allocated funding to improve the apprenticeship system.
  • Improve employer engagement.
  • Develop one consistent, coherent place for communications.
  • Develop a centralized registration system and reduce administrative burden.
  • Offer more support to apprentices.
  • Develop solutions to unique regional challenges.
  • Improve the perceived value of apprenticeship.

Earlier outreach and improved opportunities for high school students.

Narrative interviews

Research tool: Individual narrative interviews with apprentices and employers across the province to identify opportunities for improvement through a digital channel.

Findings

  • There is a high demand from clients for access to online information and resources.
  • Existing online tools and resources are scarce, scattered, and do not meet the needs of clients.
  • There is a need for a centralized, easy-to-navigate registration process.
  • It is difficult to break into the apprenticeship system without having existing connections.
  • Navigating multiple administrative bodies and systems results in confusion and discouragement for clients.
  • The current in-class training model is a major sore point for both apprentices and sponsors / employers.
  • There is a lack of awareness of financial incentives and supports.

Proactivity and support are critical factors in apprenticeship completion.

Apprenticeship journey map

Research tool: Commissioning of an apprentice journey map which identified key points and client drop-offs.

Findings

The top three drop-off points were finding a sponsor, attending Level 1 of in-class training, and finding a trade.

Apprenticeship engagement sessions

Research tool: Apprentice engagement sessions, facilitated by local offices, focused on seeking feedback on the loans for tools program, in-class training and digital tools.

Findings

Apprentices identified having access to the following digital functions would have the biggest impact on their journey:

  • View and apply for financial incentives
  • Register for and view in-class training results
  • Application and registration
  • Track progress, including digital logbooks to track on-the-job skills

Apprentices listed the following features as being important in a website or digital platform:

  • Accessible 24/7 via mobile devices
  • Simple and easy to navigate
  • Consolidated and updated information
  • Digital signatures

Survey

Research tool: Trades Hub survey with apprentices and ministry staff to receive feedback on early mock-ups and address feedback in revised designs.

Findings

  • Newly launched Skilled Trades landing page (ontario.ca/page/skilled-trades) presented as a secure, trustworthy and professional government website.
  • Wasn’t clear whether an apprenticeship was needed to pursue a career in the skilled trades, as mass amount of information was challenging to navigate, and the structure, requirements and results of the apprenticeship program were unclear to someone with no prior knowledge of the skilled trades and apprenticeship.

Non-government websites were erroneously understood to be federal government websites.

Updated: July 30, 2021
Published: March 04, 2021