By Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller
Good careers available in the skilled trades
There is an interesting contradiction in Parry Sound-Muskoka. We need more well-paying, permanent, stable jobs to support our families and our communities. On the other hand, we have businesses crying for skilled tradespeople.
This has been a problem in our area, and really across Ontario, for a number of years. As of now more than one in three journeypersons are over age 55 and getting close to retirement, which will only make the problem worse. There are over 100,000 jobs available in construction alone and I regularly hear from builders around Muskoka that they have trouble finding skilled tradespeople.
Unfortunately for a long time our education system and our society have pushed students towards university and away from the skilled trades. The skilled trades have not been respected despite the fact that we all need electricians, plumbers, bricklayers, mechanics, carpenters, and more. We need people who can build and maintain our buildings and machinery. We need people who can produce great meals for large numbers of people. And when we need these services, we pay a lot of money for them. And yet our education system, many parents, and our society in general have not encouraged young people to go into these trades.
Locally our high schools here in Muskoka do offer a selection of High Skills Major programs including in construction at Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes Secondary School, and in manufacturing, construction, and tourism and hospitality at Huntsville High School. But we need to do more.
That’s why our government is working to eliminate the stigma around the trades, simplify the apprenticeship system, and encourage employer participation.
We are investing an additional $478 million over four years into trades training. This includes:
- Programs to introduce school age children to the opportunities in the skilled trades.
- A new Building and Construction Tradeswomen project to attract more women to the trades through marketing and free training.
- The development of a one-stop online learning system for those interested in the construction trades to explore and build essential skills they can apply to apprenticeships in construction.
- Funding to help apprentices cover living expenses during their training.
In June our government passed legislation to create a new agency, called Skilled Trades Ontario, which will replace the Ontario College of Trades. This is being done because the Ontario College of Trades has not been successful. Interest in apprenticeship has plummeted 40 per cent under the Ontario College of Trades, that is 17,000 fewer people pursuing careers in the skilled trades.
Skilled Trades Ontario will be the province’s industry-informed training authority to lead the promotion, research and development of the latest apprenticeship training and curriculum standards. It will also provide a seamless, one window experience for apprentice registration, issuance of certificates and renewals, and conduct equivalency assessments all in one place with many services offered digitally.
I know people who have gone through the apprenticeship program and found it cumbersome and confusing. Many people don’t finish their apprenticeship because the system was just too difficult – not the work or the training itself, but the paperwork was too confusing. Making the process of becoming an apprentice easier for both the apprentice and the employers alike will help ensure there are tradespeople available to fill the jobs here in Parry Sound-Muskoka and it will open the door to careers in the trades that will support residents and their families.
As well, the Ontario government is investing in the health and wellbeing of our skilled tradespeople by funding a research project at the De Novo Treatment Centre in Huntsville to study and provide support for addiction and suicide issues in the construction industry. This project will develop a report and create tools for training centres, unions, and employers to better understand and address mental health.
Reminder about water safety this summer
I also wanted to remind you that this is National Drowning Prevention week. While many of us love being in or on the water this time of the year, it can be dangerous. There have been drownings in the news on a regular basis this year. In a boat please make sure you have the appropriate safety equipment, know the rules, and wear a lifejacket. If you are swimming, know your limits and if you don’t know the area, ask someone who does or check the area carefully before diving in. Remember that swimming in open water is very different than swimming in a pool so if you aren’t confident in your or your children’s abilities, wear a lifejacket.
Photo of MPP Norm Miller is courtesy of his office. Queen’s Park photo “June 2012 Ontario Legislature Toronto” by Priscilla Jordão, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original.
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