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February 21, 2012

Drummond report suggests expanded role for Ontario College of Trades

TORONTO

A greater administrative role for Ontario’s College of Trades is among the employment and training services recommendations from the Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services.

“Too many administrative functions remain centralized in the ministry when they could be shifted to parties that are better positioned to carry out these tasks,” concludes the report. “For example, the College of Trades could undertake administrative responsibilities for apprenticeships once it is up and running.”

The report commissioned by the province had a mandate to advise on how to balance Ontario’s budget earlier than 2017-2018, ensure a sustainable fiscal environment, ensure the government is getting value for money in all its activities, to not recommend privatization of health care or education and to not recommend tax increases.

“Our recommendations are daunting in depth and scope,” concluded Don Drummond, commission chair. “Indeed, they may seem overwhelming, even to the point that the government may fear that they exceed its political and bureaucratic capacity to carry them out. But there is benefit to moving quickly on many fronts at once. Targeting certain programs or sectors for reform and restraint can generate a sense of unfairness.”

The commission looked at various provincial areas of responsibility from health and education to infrastructure, immigration and employment and training services. Among the key employment and labour findings:

• Youth (aged 15 to 24) employment shrank in 2010 for the third consecutive year;

• Very recent immigrants (five years or less in Canada) continue to experience a rising unemployment rate, up from 12.7 per cent in 2008 to 18.4 per cent in 2010;

• The unemployment rate for Aboriginal youth was 20.8 per cent in 2010, up from 19.8 per cent in 2008;

• The number of laid-off older workers nearly doubled — from 75,600 in 2006 to 141,500 in 2009.

“While employment in Ontario is growing again and has already recovered all the jobs lost during the recession, young people, recent immigrants and Aboriginals continue to underperform,” found the report. “The recession worsened their employment outcomes, but they struggled in the job market well before.”

A shift in responsibility for apprenticeship administration is recommended in the report to help reform in Ontario’s employment and training system and better address labour-market challenges. A self-funded institution like Ontario’s College of Trades “can assume responsibilities that are now under the auspices of the ministry; this will reduce costs to government,” the report noted.

Colleges and union training centres that provide classroom training for apprentices could take on the administrative responsibilities related to that function as well, according to the report.

“Once operational, the College of Trades will be responsible for establishing the scope of practice and for setting out policies and procedures for the trades,” the report noted. “The College will also tackle a variety of issues facing the apprenticeship system, including apprenticeship ratios and compulsory certification.” “Shift the responsibility for all apprenticeship administration to other actors in the sector,” the report recommended. “All other administrative responsibilities for apprenticeships should be transferred to the College of Trades over time.”

The report found that Ontario’s employment and training programs are currently “not strategically organized nor consistently evaluated against labour-market success factors, clear targets or performance measures linked to outcomes.”

Labour-market information must be improved in tracking outcomes with regular evaluation of program performance to help inform future changes and improve effectiveness. Secondly, labour data gaps “limit Ontario’s ability to effectively target investments in labour-market programming at a strategic level,” the report found. “While the Labour Force Survey reports monthly on those currently working, there was until very recently no equivalent survey about jobs that need to be filled. A better understanding of employment gaps could shed light on how to make employment and training services more effective.”

Ontario should advocate for the collection of sub-provincial data in all future federal surveys on labour vacancies, the report recommended.

“Leverage labour vacancy data to inform employment and training program design and delivery.”

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