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Ontario College of Trades allows industry to be in charge of own destiny: Guthrie

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Bob Guthrie, Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT), recently moved from Saskatchewan, a province which he said put industry in charge of apprenticeship training and the certification process a few years ago. He says the people who are most directly affected by the decisions made within the apprenticeship training and certification system should regulate that system.
Bob Guthrie, Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario College of Trades
Bob Guthrie, Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario College of Trades

The Ontario College of Trades is a “great opportunity” for the trades in the province to be in charge of their own destiny, says a College top official.

Bob Guthrie, Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT), recently moved from Saskatchewan, a province which he said put industry in charge of apprenticeship training and the certification process a few years ago.

“Ontario, it seems to me, is building on what was done elsewhere and has gone a bit further.

“I think it’s a great idea to let the people who are most directly affected by the decisions, that are made within the apprenticeship training and certification system, essentially regulate that system.”

Guthrie served seven years as the Chief Executive Officer of the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission. He has nearly 30 years of experience working with trades and apprenticeship, as well as an extensive knowledge of industry standards and labour market needs.

OCOT is a self-regulated body that was legislated in 2009 and was formed as a response to one of the recommendations suggested in the 2008 Compulsory Certification Project Review by Tim Armstrong . Its mandate includes building the professional profile of the skilled trades and promoting the trades to young people.

Guthrie said the skilled trades, along with every other sector, are competing for the hearts and minds of young people and OCOT will help with that task.

“I think that there are great opportunities for young people,” he said.

“We’ve done some research in other jurisdictions that indicate that people that have a journeyperson’s certification in a skilled career have high rates of employment, have a lot of job satisfaction and have high job security and good incomes. It seems to me that’s an important message to tell young people.”

OCOT recently took a significant step forward by setting its ratio review schedule, with the first group’s review this April. Guthrie said he hopes the College will open its doors and begin enrolling members on Jan. 1, 2013.

The ratio review process is legislated to take 120 days though there is a provision to extend if necessary. All written submissions will be posted on OCOT’s website. This is followed by a hearing where the panel listens to oral submissions. The panel will then make a decision and provide it to the Board of Governors.

A coalition of construction employers once called for the complete overhaul or abolition of the College, citing issues over the governance structure, transparency and its perceived union bias.

Guthrie said OCOT has made a commitment to an open and transparent process with the ratio reviews.

“Anyone who is interested will be invited to make a submission to the review process. Everyone will be able to see what all of the stakeholders have to say about the process.”

There about eight or 10 significant projects that need to be completed before the College can open its doors, said Guthrie, including developing an IT system to enroll members.

They are also looking at the governance structure of the institution. Between the Board of Governors, Roster of Adjudicators, divisional boards and trade boards, there are several hundred people involved in the governance structure.

“They are the subject matter experts in many cases. It’s a large group, but it really represents very broadly all of the stakeholders in the College,” said Guthrie.

by Kelly Lapointe

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