Access to Trades for Newcomers in Ontario

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By: Sarah V. Wayland and Michelle P. Goldberg
Org: Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA)
Date: 2009

This project examines barriers to accessing the trades, and the degree to which the current policies and programs help or hinder Internationally-trained tradespeople (ITTs) in the process of obtaining certification and employment commensurate to their level of skill, education and training.

The objective of the research is to develop recommendations and strategies with ITTs themselves to reduce the barriers they face. The goal is to provide CASSA with information it can use in a strategy that will empower and mobilize the community as they work toward to social change to reduce barriers and improve access to employment and training for ITTs. It is seen as a "first take" or scan of an issue that requires further, more in-depth research.


What's new or significant in this report?

As the researchers acknowledge, this report is very much a first pass on the topic, a topic that has been overshadowed by research, initiatives and effort related to professions.

As a first pass, it is very useful as an introduction to the issues, main stakeholders/players in the sector and the efforts currently being made to enhance labour market access for ITTs.

The bibliography alone is worth a review for anyone providing employment services to newcomers, or an agency thinking about providing services to ITTs.

The research does not delve into deeper analysis related to gender and racialization access issues in the trades. However, at the report launch CASSA once again acknowledged that this would be a logical place for some of their future work to focus on. As well, the voices of employers were not captured in this study, and connections with employers would form another significant part of future work on this issue.

In recent years, considerable attention has focused on improving access of newcomers to the regulated professions. Access to the trades is also of great importance to many newcomers. Approximately 17% of persons working in regulated trades in this country were born abroad (Pyper 2008). Some barriers they face and concerns they have echo those around access to the professions. They also have distinct issues that deserve to be separately addressed.

Articulating immigrant concerns about accessing and working in the trades has become an urgent matter. In September 2008, the Ontario government announced its intentions to establish a College of the Trades, and work is underway to consult with various stakeholders about its governance structure, scope and mandate. The College is likely to tackle the issue of compulsory certification as recommended in the Compulsory Certification Review (Armstrong 2008). Internationally-trained tradespeople (ITTs) are important stakeholders, and it is crucial that they be included in this process and that their voices be heard.

The researchers undertook three types of research:

  1. Collection, analysis and synthesis of existing information on access to trades for ITTs
  2. Policy and program analysis of regulated trades
  3. Interview key informants and hold focus group with ITTs

Summary and Key Findings

The researchers organized their findings and analysis into these sections:

  • Immigrants in the Trades
  • Labour Force Survey Data (Canada)
  • Landings Data for Ontario
  • Skilled Trades Shortages and Projections
  • The Trades System
  • Regulating the trades
  • Entering the Trades
  • Policy Analysis
  • Legislation governing trade regulation
  • Policy options proposed by stakeholders
  • Program Analysis
  • Career Maps
  • Websites
  • Bridge training courses
  • Newcomers Connecting to Trades Apprenticeship Resources (NeCTAR) Project
  • Comprehensive supports
  • Barriers to Accessing the Trades
  • Barriers around international differences in the trades
  • Informational barriers
  • Barriers to proving qualifications
  • Barriers related to provisional certification/letters of permission
  • Barriers related to Certificate of Qualification exams
  • Barriers related to apprenticeship
  • The role of unions
  • Financial barriers
  • Employer perspectives
  • Summary and Key Findings
  • Recommendations


Recommendations are organized into three categories, for CASS, the Settlement Sector and suggestions for further research.

As part of a larger initiative, CASSA has indicated that their next steps are to bring trades stakeholders together to develop strategies to address reported barriers and the encourage collective policy organizing around this issue. CASSA is also interested in working to enhance information for newcomers, employers, and others related to education, awareness, legislation, promising practices, the availability of ITTs in Ontario and to better connect employment/settlement agencies serving skilled newcomers with employers seeking apprentices, etc.