A new report from the Ontario Construction Secretariat highlights the growing role of unions and their contractor partners in delivering skills upgrade, apprenticeship and health and safety training.

The report: Training Investment in Ontario’s Construction Industry, says union contractors and members of Ontario’s Building Trades unions invested $146 million in training in 2019, an increase of 261 per cent over the past decade, and a three-fold increase since 2006. They also invested $325 million between 2013 and 2019 in capital upgrades for training facilities and equipment.

“Investing in the training and development of a well-educated, highly skilled workforce meets current and future demands of the economy,” said Robert Bronk, OCS Chief Executive Officer.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Most union locals reported their training capacity had declined in 2020 due to the pandemic (44% modest decline, 38% significant decline);
  • Approximately one-fifth of locals expected to return to 100% of their training capacity over the next six months; approximately 30% of union locals expected to continue training at 50% of their capacity or less over the next six months;
  • The most prevalent barriers to training were ensuring the health and safety of students and accommodating physical distancing;
  • Approximately 4 in 10 locals reported moving their training to online delivery – this was more common among training delivery agents; and
  • Unions reported investing $26,621, on average, to adapt to training and adhere to health and safety measures; the average total cost (e.g., cost of temporary closures, payroll for idle employees, etc.) incurred due to COVID-19 was $52,739.

According to the report, union and employer training centres play an integral role in the province’s apprenticeship training infrastructure, delivering education to both unionized and non-unionized apprentices. According to data provided by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD), as of 2019 there were 40 union/employer training facilities with Training Delivery Agent (TDA) status, offering 61 programs across the province. In 2019, union/employer training centres accounted for about one-third (32%) of total in-school apprenticeship seats funded by MLTSD. This represents a significant increase from 2012, when union/employer training centres accounted for 23% of the total funded construction apprenticeship training seats.

Featured image: (OSC)

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