I graduated from Mohawk in 1991 from the Electrical Systems Engineering Technician program. This program has since been modified and is now taught at the Stoney Creek campus. At the time, I thought it would be beneficial for me to advance slowly towards the engineering side of the field by gaining practical and hands-on knowledge and skills. Unfortunately, I graduated right in the middle of an economic recession and simply couldn’t get a job anywhere in this area. I then got the idea to try getting into the trade directly by way of an apprenticeship. I soon found a whole mess of obstacles to get around.
The biggest one was the fact that many skilled trades in Ontario have set ratios which govern how many licensed trades persons (journeypersons) must be hired for every apprentice hired by a company. In the electrical field, it was 3:1, which means that there must be 3 journeypersons hired for every one apprentice. This made it very difficult for smaller companies to hire apprentices, since it would have been very expensive to hire the required journeypersons. It was frustrating to know that other provinces in Canada had lower ratios, such as Saskatchewan, which had 1:1.
I was encouraged to hear that in 2009, the provincial government was starting up a new Ontario College of Trades. It was necessary at the time because the Ministry of Trades, Colleges, and Universities simply did not have the proper resources to govern and regulate the trades effectively. At first. I was skeptical of the Board of Directors that was established, since it consisted of executive members of various trade labour unions. These unions were the very groups that were vehemently opposed to lowering the ratios, citing safety concerns. Opponents, such as myself, felt that this was simply a protectionist measure to ensure the job security of currently working unionized journeypersons. I was willing to wait and see.
In 2013, after much review and consultations, the College of Trades ended up lowering the ratio of many of the trades with a couple of exceptions. The electrical field did get lowered, but it’s still heavily regulated for larger companies that hire more than 3 apprentices. In this case, the ratios change to a higher level. It starts off as 1:1, but then soon changes to 13:6 (by way of a formula), so I’m not so sure that it helps the larger companies much. It’s a start anyway, and the ratios will be reviewed every 4 years, so there’s still hope.
I gave up pursuing the electrical field a few years ago, but I like to think that there’s still a great career to be had for those seeking to get into it, whether it be in the trade or as an engineer. I often wish that the College of Trades existed back in 1991!
– Todd Midgley
Electrical Engineering Technician ’91