Ontario Electrical League calls for apprentice ratio reform

Daily Commercial News (Don Wall)/August 27

The Ontario Electrical League (OEL) has fired the first volley as the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) enters its next round of reviewing apprenticeship ratios for construction trades.

The OEL held a media conference in Toronto Aug. 22 at which time its leadership said the current ratio structure prevents new electricians from finding positions in the field, and called for a new journeyman/apprenticeship ratio for electricians in construction and maintenance of 1:1 regardless of the size of the firm.

The current ratio structure is variable with 1:1 the requirement for the first through fourth apprentices, then three additional journeypersons required for a fifth apprentice, six more for the next and three more for a seventh.

The OEL supported its call by revealing the results of a survey conducted of its members in which 73 per cent said they would hire more apprentices with a 1:1 ratio. Of 127 respondents, the total number of new apprentices they said they would hire was 307.

“Entering the electrical trades in Ontario is increasingly difficult because of the apprentice to journeyperson ratio cap, which puts the education and development of the next generation of electricians at risk,” said Stephen Sell, OEL president, in a statement.

He said at the media conference, “The answer is logical, modernizing the ratios today.”

Sell said the complexity of the ratio structure was a big issue with contractors.

“You ask a contractor, they don’t know how many they can have,” he said.

Sheridan College electrical studies graduate Alexander Klusek of Oakville, Ont. spoke to drive home the point about limited apprenticeship opportunities.

For over a year he has been unable to find a position despite sending out over 100 resumes. He feels defeated and let down, he said, and he is considering changing professions.

Apprenticeship ratios for construction trades are reviewed by the College of Trades every four years with the last review completed in 2014. The latest review period was extended into 2019 because of the recent provincial election.

Similar to the last review, consultations seem likely to pit opponents of restrictive apprentice ratios, such as the OEL, against proponents of the current structure such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

Responding to the OEL call for a new ratio structure, James Barry, executive chairman of the IBEW Construction Council of Ontario and a former member of the OCOT board of governors, said the current ratio structure tends to ensure the safety of electrical workers and promotes better quality construction, and suggested OEL contractors were looking to save on wages.

“When considering ratios, one must also give sufficient thought to how this would affect completion rates, the integrity of apprenticeship training and occupational safety,” commented Barry in a statement to the Daily Commercial News.

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