The Ontario College of Trades – Friend or Foe?
It affects a huge variety of occupations, from mechanic to carpenter to hairdresser. It has both friend and foe. The Conservative government has vowed to scrap it. The Liberals say they’ll fix it. What is it? The Ontario College of Trades. Few topics are more controversial among those in the skilled trades.
The Ontario College of Trades has been in operation for over a year now, with the voices of proponents as well as opponents all weighing in on the hot topic. The organization affects over 100 different fields with the mandate to oversee the training and qualifications of skilled trades workers.
Even if someone is already trained and has had their qualifications verified by a third party, they must pass the applicable Ontario Colleges of Trades test or pay an annual fee of $120 to be allowed to continue in their profession. The fee represents a substantial price hike compared to the standard $20 a year that skilled trades workers paid before the new qualifications came into effect.
Proponents say that, as with any newly formed organization, there are bound to be ‘growing pains’ or issues that need to be addressed. But minor issues aside, they claim the Ontario College of Trades is performing a vital function. Advocates label it as a protection of public interest, saying it provides a license that confirms that skilled workers are what they claim to be. It’s a government stamp of approval, in a way, giving a professionalism to the trades.
They also say it’s fair and informed bureaucracy, since it’s ‘trades representing trades’. People in a certain trade sit on the board of that particular profession to oversee it and address issues pertaining to it.
The opinion of opponents can be summed up in two words: cash grab. From over-the-top fees to unreasonable bureaucratic oversight, those who dislike the entity say it brings them no benefits whatsoever. They wonder why the membership fee of $120 can’t work for skilled workers, at least bringing them some benefits, instead of simply facilitating a system for complaints.
In some occupations, such as hairstylist, critics claim it’s actually pushing out skilled workers who have 10 to 15 years of experience under their belt, but who do not have the compulsory certification. Why can’t there be a ‘grandfathering’ exception for these people, they ask?
Then there’s the fact that in other provinces, like Alberta, you’re qualified as a competent tradesperson once you get your apprenticeship training and pass the tests. No extra layers of oversight exist.
So, where do you stand? If you’re in the skilled trades or are heading that way, do you see the need for oversight by a ‘reputable’ entity, or does it make you think twice about pursuing a career in your chosen profession? Does the Ontario College of Trades help or hinder you?