January 2017 – Article: THE FUTURE OF SKILLED TRADES AND CHANGING WORKPLACES (Part 2 of an OCS interview with Ontario’s Minister of Labour)

THE FUTURE OF SKILLED TRADES AND CHANGING WORKPLACES (Part 2 of an OCS interview with Ontario’s Minister of Labour)

Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn is a happy man!

He’s happy as long as Premier Kathleen Wynne allows him to remain Ontario’s Minister of Labour, because he feels suited to the role of Minister of Labour, and it’s the job he wants in Government.

“When I look at the economy from the business perspective and then the labour perspective, I’m very happy in the middle of that,” says Flynn.  “I can see the good in both sides.  I’m as comfortable in a union hall as I am in the boardroom.”

In a recent interview with the Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS), Flynn spoke on a variety of topics including reconnecting today’s youth with skilled trades.

Shop classes have virtually disappeared from schools.  Blamed on budget cuts, it has robbed students of the opportunity to learn about what could be a rewarding career as a skilled tradesperson.

The Minister says government and society both must share some of the blame.

“I think we’re missing the mark.  When you have a youth unemployment rate that is higher than you want it to be and you’re (for example) bringing boilermakers from Ireland, there’s a mismatch somewhere along the way.”

Flynn says if you want to work hard, have the skills, the ability and ambition, you can go a long way in the trades.  However, he cautions against a societal “either or” mentality – that you either go into the trades or you get a degree.

“I can’t for the life of me see why it can’t be both”, he says.  “We forget that skilled trades IS higher education.  We’ve kind of misclassified it”.

He believes the recently created Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel will tackle some of these issues.

The Panel released its final report this past June.  Entitled Building the Workforce of Tomorrow: A Shared Responsibility, the report makes recommendations including building stronger partnerships between educators and employers.  The OCS will continue to foster this partnership when it holds its 14th Annual Future Building exposition in 2017 in Ottawa next May 16, 17 and 18.

The Labour Minister also took time to speak about the Changing Workplaces Interim Report, released during the summer.

In reviewing the report, the Minister says advisors John Murray and Mike Mitchell delivered what he believes is a good summary and good understanding of what the issues are, namely how workplaces have changed, the needs of business, what organized labour is seeing on the ground and what advocacy are needed to represent those new to Canada – those who often find themselves subject to the abuses that spurred the report.

“Ontario has got some of the best employment standards in the world and the best labour relations legislation.  However the workplace it was designed for, has changed over the past 15 years.”

This independent review is seeking recommendations for legislative changes to the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (LRA) and the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA).  Consultations included meetings with a variety of construction groups and associations including Local 793 of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), the Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario (ECAO), and the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario.

Release of the final report is expected at the end of February.

Even before the release however, there are also those who argue the recommendations will negatively impact the economy.  Flynn doesn’t agree.

“I don’t think any of the concerns I have seen and read about are mutually exclusive to each other in the way that you couldn’t have a slution that would hurt the economy.  I think you can do both and I believe fostering partnerships is an avenue worth exploring.

Flynn adds “This is an opportunity for us to make some strides for working people”.






Fred Lehmann
Communications Coordinator,

Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS)
180 Attwell Drive, Suite 360, Toronto, ON M9W 6A9
P 416.620.5210 ext. 222
F 416.620.5310