Durham College President “disappointed” to not be included in skilled trades announcement

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Published March 22, 2023 at 2:19 pm

Ontario Premier Doug Ford practises plasma welding on a car hood as while visiting St. Mary Catholic Secondary School in Pickering. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Durham College President Don Lovisa has no bone to pick with the Ontario government’s call to put the skilled trades in the spotlight but doing so without including colleges in the decision making is “hugely disappointing,” he said.

The government announced it is investing $224 million to build and upgrade private training centres and will spend $75 million over the next three years on operations and programming at the centres. Premier Doug Ford said the funds will be included in the budget expected tomorrow.

“It is inexplicable that colleges are excluded from the funding. Colleges play a dominant role in skills training, including the delivery of over 80 per cent of the in-class portion of apprenticeship training,” Lovisa aid, adding they were “very disappointed” to be “shut out” of the announcement for the new skills training centres.

“Colleges provide many of the best opportunities to prepare students for careers in the skilled trades and should have been a major part of this announcement.”

In addition to its support for private training centres, Ontario must start investing in the fiscal sustainability of college programs, he added.

Ford and Lovisa both agree the province faces an escalating shortage of qualified people in key sectors, including the skilled trades, technology and health care, with an estimated 30,000 jobs are going unfilled right now. Where they differ is the role of Ontario’s colleges, as Lovisa believes the colleges are “pivotal” in producing graduates with the expertise to fill that demand.

The colleges are urging the government to improve and expand the existing infrastructure and work with the sector on a more responsible approach to skills training that will bolster the economy and help more people find rewarding careers, he said.

“Investing in our students and their future careers has to be a priority. That means Ontario must invest in the high-quality programs at our colleges.”

Applications for a new Skills Development Fund capital stream are set to open in the late spring for groups including unions, businesses, industry associations and Indigenous centres to build new training centres, or upgrade or convert existing facilities.

“With this new funding…we’re taking steps to create a bigger pipeline of talent to ensure we continue to have the best workforce in the world to keep attracting investments and build Ontario,” Ford said at Tuesday’s announcement in Vaughan, citing a recent announcement that Volkswagen will build its first overseas electric vehicle battery cell plant in St. Thomas.

“Over the next decade, we’re going to need thousands of new skilled construction workers to help build the infrastructure our growing population needs, including the factories we were just talking about, highways, new homes, public transit, schools and hospitals.”

His Labour Minister, Monte McNaughton, said Ontario is facing a “historic labour shortage” and believes they will need 100,000 skilled workers over the next decade due to retirements and job growth.

With files from The Canadian Press

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