The Ontario government is allowing grade 11 students to transition to a full-time, skilled trades apprenticeship program to get people in the workforce faster.
Once receiving their Certificate of Apprenticeship, students can also apply for, and obtain, their Ontario Secondary School Diploma, given to them as a mature student.
“These changes provide students with exciting pathways to good-paying jobs and rewarding careers and support our government’s ongoing work to attract more young people into the skilled trades,” said Premier Doug Ford.
The announcement came Wednesday morning at a news conference by Ford, his education minister Stephen Lecce and other trade representatives at St. Mary Catholic Secondary School in Pickering.
An estimated 72,000 new workers are needed by 2027 to fill open trade positions in Ontario because of retirement and expected job growth in the construction sector alone. Ford said the positions will help fulfill his government’s infrastructure plans, including building 1.5 million homes by 2031.
“Whether it’s enhancing trades education in our schools, breaking down barriers for newcomers, or up-skilling workers, we’re leaving no stone unturned to train the skilled workforce that will build Ontario,” said Ford.
The Ontario government will begin consultations this fall about ways to make it easier for the high school students to enter a career in trades, Ford said.
Consultations will be with employers, unions, education stakeholders, trainers, parents and others, the government said in a media release.
There are currently 140 skilled trades in Ontario, and 1.2 million people are working in the industry, many of them set to retire in the coming years.
“Young Ontarians who are contemplating their future career options should know that working in the construction trades by starting a registered apprenticeship can offer a lifetime of opportunity and prosperity,” said Marc Arsenault of the Provincial Building and construction Trades Council of Ontario.
Arsenault in his remarks at the event said that apprenticeship programs are the best place where young adults can feel safe and confident going in as the next generation of construction trades professionals.
Currently, it takes two to five years to complete an apprenticeship, and recently, there were nearly 285,000 jobs in Ontario going unfilled, while about one in five job openings in Ontario are projected to be in the skilled trades by 2026.
“We want every single student to have a pathway to a good job. That is our aspiration, that is our focus today,” Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, told the media event in Pickering.
The government’s media release said that the Ministry of Education is currently working to recognize up to 30 credits required to earn the Ontario Secondary School Diploma for individuals with a Certificate of Apprenticeship or equivalent.
“Our government’s mission is to fill the skills gap by better connecting Ontario students to these good-paying jobs, helping many students who may not have graduated, now gain a credential that leads them to meaningful employment,” said Lecce.
The apprenticeship plan is set to begin roll out in fall 2023.