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There is currently a critical shortage of skilled tradespeople in Ontario and that is a top priority for Labour Minister Monte McNaughton for the province in 2020, according to Chatham Daily News.
During an interview Tuesday regarding a year-end MPP for Lambton-Kent said, “My mission is to get more young people into the skilled trades.”
One of the things that would help get more people into the skilled trades is to end the stigma around working in them as well as encouraging business to bring on apprentices and that is the effort McNaughton hopes to put forward.
“We know that one out of every five jobs in the next five years is going to be in the skilled trades,” McNaughton said. “We also know that one in three journey-persons today are over the age of 55, so we’re reaching a crisis point in the shortage of skilled trades in Ontario.”
One of the ways to McNaughton the stigma can be reduced is to reform the education system to expose the trades as an option as early as kindergarten.
“We want to introduce the skilled trades at a younger age than is currently happening today,” said the minister. McNaughton often uses the example of an elevator mechanic whose starting wage is $108, 000 annually. “There’s a huge shortage of elevator mechanics in Ontario.”
The government hired a polling company to conduct focus groups and to survey millennials ages 18 to 34, polling them about the trades industry. Their results showed a great lack of awareness about these options.
“Time and time again, the young people would say, ‘I know how to become a doctor … but I have no idea what constitutes a skilled trade and I have no idea how to become one,’” McNaughton said. The survey results “really highlighted, to me, the broken system that we have,”
One of the initiatives the minister is pushing for is a “multi-million-dollar” investment into a marketing campaign for the trades. The number one problem the government hears from Ontario businesses is the shortage of skilled trades workers.
“Every single day in Ontario, 200,000 jobs go unfilled,” he said. “Just think, if we could fill those jobs … the GDP of the province would be greater, government would have more money to invest in health care and education, and more people would have jobs.”
“I think we have to look at every opportunity to find workers for businesses in Ontario, and businesses have to respond by bringing on apprentices,” he said.
The Ontario Electrical League released a report in November that showed 75 percent of contractor members that they surveyed have hired at least one apprentice.
The credit for this comes for the government’s Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act according to the Ontario Electrical League. The bill established a one-to-one journey-person to apprentice ratio which was a change from the previous ratio which was more restrictive in the past.
President of the Ontario Electrical League Stephen Sell responded to the announcement by saying, “Now more than ever, one of the most emphasized topics of conversation among the trades is preparing today’s generation for the future,”
“One-to-one ratios not only allow people to land coveted apprenticeships, but it may just influence those that could be considering a career in the skilled trades–who are now much more inclined to pursue one knowing that a major roadblock has been lifted.”
Bringing in skilled immigrants and working to get more Indigenous residents and women into the trades is also part of McNaughton’s initiative in rounding out the gap in tradespeople.