FINISHING TRADES INSTITUTE OF ONTARIO: NEW LOOK – NEW PURPOSE
One of the strengths of unionized ICI construction sector in Ontario is the training and education that is provided by the trades. There are over 95 state-of-the-art, joint union-employer training centres covering every region of the province, ensuring that union tradespeople have the training and skills required for productive and safe worksites.
Three of the training centres are located in Toronto, Ancaster and Ottawa. Formerly known as the Ontario Industrial Finishing Skills Centre (OIFSC), they have been re-branded and are now known as the Finishing Trades Institute (FTI) of Ontario. In Toronto, the Institute supports the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) and its commercial and industrial painters and the architectural glass and metal technicians (glaziers). The Institute also partners with the Architectural Glass and Metal Contractors Association and the Ontario Painting Contractors Association.
Training at the Institute in Toronto is primarily for commercial painters and glaziers. Brian Gingras is the Executive Director. He says the rebranding has been a good thing because it better reflects “what we do” and expects it will help make it easier to attract new apprentices. However Gingras believes a marketing plan would be an added benefit in helping to find young people to train and become painters and glaziers.
IUPAT District Council 46 which represents the entire province knows of the challenge first hand. Business Manager Bruno Mandic, who is also a labour trustee for the training centre, says it’s already difficult to find skilled labour. As tradespeople in the construction industry begin to retire, hiring a sufficient number of apprentices and journeymen to fill the jobs is tougher than it would seem.
“We will be short [workers] for sure – we’re short already in certain areas such as Thunder Bay (where there is a need for drywall finishers)”, says Mandic. “We have posted many times on Kijiji and we work with various communities to make them aware of our needs.”
While outreach is important, Mandic says the federal government must also play a role in encouraging and making it easier for foreign workers to relocate to Ontario, especially in smaller communities.
Gingras believes part of the solution lies with technology and flexibility.
“Part of our duty as a training department, regardless of the trade we’re teaching, is to always be looking for the technology to be on the cutting edge – what’s the next latest and greatest product, equipment, etc. If we’re not keeping our ear to the pulse of what’s going on in the industry, we are being reactive whereas we should be proactive, purchase equipment, develop the curriculum and deliver it before the trade demands it”.
As an example, Gingras points to “energy efficiency” as something that is impacting glaziers and painters. He predicts a huge demand for retrofitting windows using new efficient glass panels as the government continues to push towards “greening” the trade. Paints in your local hardware store will increasingly promote lower Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) to help the environment.
In addition to changes in technology and industry standards, apprentices, journeymen and contractors are able to receive health and safety training. Bill Mogavero is Vice President and Operations Manager for Harrison Muir Incorporated and a management trustee for the training centre. He points to training flexibility as another important aspect in the operation of the training centre.
“Much of the safety training is done in class, but there are instances where staff will go on location to provide the training. This helps contractors who may be up against time constraints and also often helps to keep their workers in Ontario. It does a lot of good for our industry”.
Taking that a step further, Gingras says technology and a partnership with United Rentals allows the training centre to train workers in remote communities. He says workers do the written portion of their exams online and then register with the local United Academy (the training department of United Rentals) to complete the practical part of their exam.
Partnerships with organizations such as the YWCA which the training centre initiated in 2016 for a “Women in the Trades” program was quite beneficial because the YWCA did pre-screening of applicants, pre-testing, evaluations and interviews which allow the training centre to focus on delivery of the training.
Gingras says technology, flexibility and partnerships are a great help when it comes to attracting future painters and glaziers. But it comes down to marketing.
“Within the construction industry, everybody knows who the painters are, who the Ironworkers are, everybody knows the UA and the IBEW…and that’s not the market we need to reach. We need to market ourselves outside the construction bubble and reach the public, and I don’t know that we’ve done that very well to this point.”
Getting the word out is never easy. With the rebranding however, the FTI of Ontario is poised to get the word out that there are many advantages to working in and with Ontario’s finishing trades.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS)
180 Attwell Drive, Suite 360, Toronto, ON M9W 6A9
P 416.620.5210 ext. 222