Milad Mansour said he's a great believer in apprenticeship.
Right now, his Sudbury-based company, Mansour Mining Technologies Inc., is helping about 15 apprentices learn their trades through on-the-job training.
The trouble is there's such a shortage of skilled tradespeople in Greater Sudbury right now that the city's two large mining companies often “steal” his apprentices by offering them better pay and benefits, Mansour said.
“We can't compete with them,” he said. In the long-term, the only thing that will solve this problem is to train more apprentices so the shortage doesn't exist, Mansour said.
Garfield Dunlop, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Simcoe North and the critic for apprenticeship reform, said he has a few ideas about how to end the skilled tradesperson shortage.
Along with Paula Peroni, the Progressive Conservatives' candidate in Nickel Belt in the last provincial election, Dunlop toured Mansour's business July 17. The MPP is visiting a number of communities this summer as he prepares to write a policy paper for his party on apprenticeship.
In Dunlop's opinion, the rules surrounding apprenticeships in Ontario is making the shortage of skilled tradespeople worse.
In most of the country, companies are allowed to have as many apprentices as they have skilled tradespeople. However, in Ontario, companies must have three skilled tradespeople for every apprentice they have, which limits the amount of people they can train.
“Right now, we're in the dark ages compared to the rest of the country,” Dunlop said, adding that he's been hearing complaints about the apprenticeship ratio system from businesspeople across the province.
This problem is even more pronounced in the Greater Sudbury area because of the boom in the mining industry, he said. Dunlop said he learned from Mayor Marianne Matichuk that the city is currently short about 1,000 skilled tradespeople.
The city is losing young people interested in the skilled trades to Alberta because they know it will be a challenge to find a placement where they can complete their apprenticeship training, Peroni said.
“They'll go out there and get good work, but they won't necessarily complete their trade,” she said. “That's really hurting us. Once they're out there, we don't get them back.”
Dunlop, himself a plumber by trade, said more needs to be done to attract young people into becoming skilled tradespeople.
“There's nothing wrong with coming home at the end of the day with your hands dirty if you've made a good buck,” he said. “There's a stigma if you come home with your hands dirty at the end of the day, you're a nobody in this world. That's not the case.”
Peroni, who is also a trustee with the Sudbury Catholic District School Board, said she thinks high schools are doing a good job of getting the word out about skilled trades careers.
“The problem with that is trying to get these kids to be able to finish,” she said. “They can't finish unless they can be an apprentice.”
Beyond the issues surrounding apprenticeship, Dunlop said he's speaking to skilled tradespeople about the new College of Trades being set up in the province.
While the college was touted by the province as an oversight body similar to the College of Physicians and Surgeons, he said it's turned into a “bloody nightmare.”
“It's already out of control,” Dunlop said. “We found they've got a three-storey building in downtown Toronto, and they're hiring all kinds of staff. There's $31 million coming from the Ontario government to the College of Trades.
"They hope to recoup that starting Jan. 1, 2013, when they're going to be sending out membership fees to everybody that's a trades worker in Ontario. The trades workers ... don't even know they're going to have to join the college of trades, and it's compulsory.”
He said if the Progressive Conservatives become the government in the next election, one of the first things they'll do is scrap the College of Trades.
“It's just another tax on the tradespeople,” he said.
Posted by Arron Pickard