Ontario College of Trades is OPEN!

Yesterday, Monday April 8th, 2013, was the official opening day for North Americas’ first ever College of Trades (OCOT) and we were there!

ECAO demonstrated its’ support for OCOT through the attendance of Eryl Roberts, Susan Boorman and Scott Macivor at the first public Board meeting of the College Board of Governors.We were impressed with the efficiency of the meeting and the commitment by the Governors to ensure the workings of OCOT will always be transparent to its members.All future Board meetings will be open to the public and copies of their approved decisions and support documents will be available through their website shortly thereafter.

This years’ Business Plan and associated budget were approved as presented and should be available for review at www.collegeoftrades.ca by the end of Tuesday.  The Board also committed to an improved outreach strategy to better ensure special interest groups and specialty advisory bodies, such as our Coalition of Compulsory Trades in Construction (CCTC), will have and continue to have direct access to OCOTs Board and Administration.

Of interest the Board was informed of a new Regulation passed by the government just this past weekend whereby any member of a voluntary trade who had received their CofQ prior to April 8, 2013 would be grandfathered and NOT be required to pay any fees in the future to maintain that CofQ.Any voluntary tradespersons qualifying for a CofQ after that date will be required to pay an annual membership fee ($120) to OCOT to maintain that CofQ in good standing.

The Board discussed the issue of increased confusion amongst apprentices who must still register with MTCU for indentureship but also register as members of OCOT.There are several related issues arising from the fact that full responsibility for all aspects of apprenticeship administration were not transferred to OCOT (as we had originally recommended and which was also part of the Drummond report recommendations).The Board did not resolve this issue but has undertaken further examination of options to correct.The CCTC will add this concern to the agenda of our meeting later this month and try to offer OCOT additional options for consideration.

With a number of ‘who is exactly responsible for what’ issues still remaining to be resolved there is not yet a signed Memorandum of Understanding between OCOT and MTCU.We are asking for clarification regarding the specifics and will include these concerns at the upcoming CCTC meeting.We understand these items are typical start-up type issues very much needing to be resolved but are satisfied the discussions are progressing appropriately.

The Board meeting concluded in under 3 hours giving us the opportunity to take a tour of the OCOT facilities at 655 Bay Street.The offices are fully completed and operational.We were impressed with the high tech call centre but noted the call volumes on this first day had jumped from 900 the previous Friday to over 1500 on opening day! More staff will be brought on immediately to improve response times on the phones.

Most of the persons visiting OCOT today were there to make enquiry regarding writing apprenticeship exams.While busy it appeared the majority were being appropriately served.

We were also impressed by the quality of the various meeting spaces at OCOT.The multi-functioning Board room is a state of the art high tech facility as are the 2 hearing rooms and the Executive Board Room.These spaces, along with several smaller meeting rooms, are available for member use when not booked by OCOT functions.

OCOT has made increased efforts to ensure their staff have an appropriate connection with the trades either in their own training or direct work experience.Virtually 100% of those hired as enforcement officers who will be out in the field have a trade background.We had the opportunity to meet several of the staff including the Director of Standards, John Poirier, who is responsible for all the Trade Board activities.John was receptive to our request to set up a meeting with the Chairs of each of the compulsory construction Trade Boards and our CCTC to discuss issues of mutual concern.

After touring the facilities we had an opportunity to be guests at an opening day dignitary reception attended by members of the Board, executive staff and Appointments Council.Among the dignitaries we had a chance to once again thank Tim Armstrong for his role in making all this a reality.Board Chair, Ron Johnson gave an excellent congratulatory speech recognizing the many persons who brought the College to this day.We now have the self-regulating College we have long asked for.It is no longer the government who drives the decisions directly affecting our industry.Now we must decide for ourselves.It is up to us to make OCOT work!