For the past eight years, the Ontario College of Trades (“OCOT”) has been responsible for regulation of the skilled trades in Ontario. In October of 2018, the government of Ontario reported that OCOT would be wound down. Since that time, there has been considerable uncertainty in the construction industry and other affected industries regarding the government’s plans for the replacement of OCOT. On May 6, 2021, the government answered some of these questions by introducing legislation that will continue OCOT under the name Skilled Trades Ontario.
The proposed Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades Act (the “Act”), which passed first reading on May 6, 2021, would assign responsibility for the training, apprenticeship, and certification of trades to Skilled Trades Ontario. The agency will be responsible for a number of matters related to the trades, including:
- the issuances of certificates of qualification and apprenticeship;
- the evaluation of whether a trade should be prescribed for the purposes of the Act; and
- setting apprentice to journeyperson ratios.
Under the Act,each trade shall have a scope of practice, which may include practices that are also found in another trade’s scope of practice. It will be unlawful to practice a compulsory trade without a certificate of qualification or registered apprenticeship. Unlike the existing OCOT legislation, the Act does not set out how trades will come to be classified as compulsory or establish a process for changing scopes of practice, but the legislation does allow a Minister to make regulations regarding these matters.
Certificates of qualification will only be issued for trades with respect to which certifying examinations are required. These certificates shall have prescribed terms, after which the certificate may be renewed if the individual meets certain criteria. Individuals that successfully complete an apprenticeship program for other trades shall receive a certificate of apprenticeship.
Skilled Trades Ontario will establish apprenticeship programs for each trade which may include on-the-job training, in-class curriculum standards, and examinations. An individual may receive training in a trade as required by an apprenticeship program in accordance with a “registered training agreement”. A training agreement will be registered if the applicant is at least 16 years old and meets the prescribed academic standards and/or sponsor criteria.
Inspectors appointed under the Act will be responsible for determining whether apprentices are receiving the appropriate training and whether the trainers of apprentices are complying with apprenticeship programs. They will have the authority to enforce the legislation by issuing “compliance orders”. If an inspector determines that a compliance order has been infringed, an unqualified person is working in a compulsory trade, or someone has failed to comply with a journeyperson to apprentice ratio, they may issue of notice of contravention and require the payment of an administrative penalty.
Notices of contravention may be reviewed by the Ontario Labour Relations Board, which has the power to resolve, cancel, amend, and confirm these notices. An application to the Board must be made within 15 days of the receipt of the notice of contravention, unless the Board extends the time limit.
The Minister may make regulations related to the transition from OCOT to Skilled Trades Ontario, including regulations related to how existing certificates of qualification and registered training agreements will continue under the new legislation.
A copy of the Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades Act can be found here.
If you have any questions about this legislation, how it will affect your apprentices, or would like any other workplace assistance, please contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.