Ottawa, ON — The Government of Ontario has officially launched Skilled Trades Ontario (STO), a new crown agency that will help combat the estimated labour shortage seen in the skilled trades industry. It is estimated that by 2025, the skilled trades will see a shortage of 350,000 jobs.
“We’re redrawing the system to address Ontario’s labour shortage and make the trades a career of choice for more people,” said Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, training and skills development.
Previously STO was known as the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT), but the government remodelled the program. The new agency will make it easier for people to learn about and enter the trades by marketing the trades, developing new training and curriculum standards, and providing a streamlined user-friendly experience for tradespeople.
There are currently 144 trades in Ontario, and by 2025 it is estimated that one in five jobs will be in the trades.
STO will also provide new online services that intend to help apprentices by creating an online “one-stop-shop,” which will allow for apprentices to schedule classes and exams, submit forms, and pay fees.
“The Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Institue of Canada (HRAI) is pleased to see these new online services as this was one of the key recommendations made by HRAI during the STO stakeholder consultations that were reflected in the final legislation,” explains the association in a press release. “Other HRAI recommendations that were also included in legislation were increased interprovincial alignment and labour mobility and the development of a continuum of compliance tools used by inspectors.”
In addition, an independent board of directors will lead STO in delivering on the government’s Skilled Trades Strategy in an attempt to break the stigma surrounding the trades, simplify the system, and encourage employers to hire more apprentices.
The new STO board of directors will include Michael Sherrard, employment lawyer at Sherrard Kuzz LLP (chair), Karen Renkema, Ontario vice-president for Progressive Contractors Association of Canada, John Breslin, national director of skilled trades at Unifor, Lindsay Engel, dean of applied science and technology for Sheridan College, Michael Gallardo, president and CEO of Merit Ontario, Lee Greenberg, former PC staffer-turned-principal at Policy Concepts Inc., Ronald Kelusky, Ontario’s former chief prevention officer, Kenneth Scott Player, former financial executive, Christine Wellenreiter, director of strategy and market support for Canada Life’s group retirement area, and industry representatives Jason Ottey, Shaun Scott and Melissa Young, whose appointments were made public in May.
The process to launch STO began back in 2021 when the proposed legislation titled “Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades” was designed to make Ontario’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system more efficient, accessible and easier to navigate.