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The Ontario College of Trades, an Impossible Idea

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The Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) is to disappear, to be replaced by an organization that will promote the skilled trades.

Last week, Economic Development Minister Jim Wilson announced that the government’s first major red tape reduction action will be to Overhaul Bill 148 and dissolve OCOT. The OGCA, as a member of the Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance (OSTA), has aggressively challenged OCOT since its inception more than seven years ago. The battle was over the direction of an impossible mandate, to both promote and regulate the skilled trades. This has been the main feature of the big picture debate.

From the beginning, OCOT decided to flex their muscles by enforcing mandatory trade requirements and apprentice ratios. Ten trades were in the queue to make the case to expand the list of mandatory trades to include many of the common trades, including carpenters.

OSTA organized 34 employer associations to oppose this direction. It lead to the “Stop the Trades Tax” campaign in 2013 that involved itself in the 2014 election. It galvanized thousands of companies and contractors to object to not only the tax, but the barriers placed on recruitment and hiring, as fewer apprentices were able to move through the system.

In the past four years, the focus has been on working the process to challenge the adoption of more mandatory trades. One trade - the sprinklers - were able to proceed but ten other trades remained waiting for their hearing until today. OGCA, with OSTA, has challenged this agenda at every step.

After seven years of battling many unions and employer associations who advocated greater regulatory restrictions, the new government has responded. OCOT, in direct contradiction to their mandate to promote the trades, acted to restrict access to persons eager to enter the industry and employers in need of skilled workers. 

That is why today the new PC government acted. This includes:

  • Set all journeyperson to apprentice ratios at one-to-one
  • Implement a moratorium on trade classifications and reclassifications
  • Initiate the winding down of the Ontario College of Trades

The legislation will give the government the power to take charge of the board of Directors and appoint an administrator. The commitment is “apprenticeship in Ontario needs to be modernised and transformed to better meet the needs of apprentices, employers, workers and employers.” The government intends to develop a replacement model early in the New Year. 

OGCA fully supports this action and will work with the government to define the services and mandate of a successor organization. The new focus must be to provide leadership to address the skills shortage.

Click here for a "Backgrounder" from the Government of Ontario on Modernizing Ontario's Apprenticeship System. 


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