Learning & Development
Focus turns to trades in effort to boost Ontario labour supply: Minister
'We're finding a lack of available workers is affecting every village and every community'
By Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
THE THAMESVILLE HERALD
COVID-19 is not the only crisis facing Ontario, says Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton.
As Ontario’s Minister for Labour, Training and Skills Development, McNaughton is trying to fill the gaps in the province’s critical labour shortage.
“We have lucrative, meaningful jobs available everywhere in this province,” McNaughton says. “Getting people into these positions is my No. 1 mission.”Advertisement
McNaughton has two new ministry initiatives on track that he hopes will pay dividends by boosting Ontario’s labour supply.
Beginning in September 2021, skilled trade recruiters will be going into every high school in the province in a bid to attract youth toward the trades.
They’ll go head to head with university recruiters, the minister says.
“We’re finding a lack of available workers is affecting every village and every community,” he says, adding skilled trades training is a “huge opportunity for our rural areas.”
“We’ve got to stop telling young people they have to go to university,” McNaughton explains, adding young people can earn while they learn and finish an apprenticeship without accruing crippling debt.
The average age of an apprentice in Ontario is 28 years, McNaughton notes, meaning many have tried other routes before finding the path to a good-paying skilled trades job.
Message headed to grade schools
Another recruitment strategy is in the wings. The topic of skilled trades in going to be introduced into the elementary schools beginning in Grade 1.
McNaughton believes the early exposure will draw students in.
As baby boomers leave the workforce, the trades shortage threatens the viability of communities and the economy, he explains, adding the problem must be aggressively targeted.
There’s also going to be some extra help for those who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. McNaughton says Second Career grant funding will be widely available.
It’s a redesign of the program put in place by the former Liberal government. Ford’s government has committed $77-million in funding aimed at training 52 weeks and under.
“We want to get people trained and out there as quickly as possible,” McNaughton explains.
The effort will see people trained in advanced manufacturing, life sciences, information and communication technology and supportive health services.
“Out government will connect them to rewarding careers, enabling them to contribute to our economic recovery,” he says, adding there’s a great need for personal support workers, for example.
McNaughton has been the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development in the Ford government for the past 18 months.
Prior to that he served a one-year term as Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture.