Why the Ontario College of Trades needs to change their ways
Guest post by Leandra Greenfield
Let me begin by saying that, in general, I am not a big fan of the whole Ontario College of Trades system. I have witnessed far too many people paying thousands of dollars on useless pre-apprenticeship programs and costly training colleges. The way the system works now means that you’re investing in your future career while not being told the reality of the outcomes waiting for you. I am a licenced hairstylist who can admit that I’m pretty sour about the process by now. It’s not fair that the government is promoting skilled trades while the system in place can’t accommodate members’ needs and is causing an expensive inconvenience.
The Ontario College of Trades (OCT) was introduced in April 2009 and is meant to regulate all licenced trades in Ontario. Its functions include licence renewal/issuing, improving training/certification and helping the public know who’s a qualified tradesperson. On paper it’s a really good concept; I understand why it was implemented. But with its 20 million dollar budget, I think it can be run a lot better.
As a hairstylist, I’ll draw from my experience with the OCT. Let me first walk you through the specific training process. When you want to become a hairstylist you have two choices: you can work as an apprentice in a salon for three years or you can go to a training college for 10 months followed by an apprenticeship for at least a year. When you sign up as an apprentice, you go through the OCT to get approval. Once all of your training is done, you take an OCT exam for $150 to fully qualify as a hairstylist. One of the most frustrating things that happened while I was going through my training was finding out that I could have qualified for extra grants, but didn’t because the OCT didn’t alert me to these opportunities.
One of the problems that first comes to mind regarding the OCT is the enormous price for training colleges. The one I went to was located in downtown Toronto and cost around $11,000 for 10 months of school. I think there needs to be more regulation of the tuition people are required to pay for training because the costs of these schools has gone up tremendously throughout the years. Also, many people I have talked to say that they’ve known someone who went to a training college or pre-apprenticeship program and have not been able to secure an apprenticeship afterwards. Considering the cost involved, the OCT should really work harder to make sure people going into these programs are set up with a mentor afterwards. Considering they have a whole database of members, it should be easy accomplish this function.
Another issue is the OCT’s horrible lack of communication. Considering the OCT is now requiring journeypersons/apprentices to go through them for pretty much every trade, they have a very weak understanding of how to handle all the people requiring their assistance. People are getting fed up with the combination of useless bureaucracy and expensive mandatory membership fees. Many hairstylists and tradespeople are sick of paying their hard earned money for the diminished service that the OCT provides for them. The OCT claims to be spending a big chunk of this money going into places of business and making sure everyone is licenced but I worked in salons for years and never saw one person come in to check that we were all qualified. What’s the point of paying all this money and spending all this time getting licensed if the OCT is not even going to follow up with one of their key promises?
To sum up the main issues with the OCT are that they are wasting individuals and taxpayers money by poorly and ineffectively regulating the licencing process. The whole system seems redundant. And they are causing more inconvenience than any regulatory system before them. For example, barbers never used to be licenced because they just cut men’s hair and don’t perm/dye/chemically process hair in anyway. However now, thanks to the OCT, they have to go through the process of learning all these skills even if they will never use them. If they want to keep on spending our money, they should become much more member friendly, efficient and stop trying to milk journeypersons by collecting their hard earned cash without benefits to them.
So dear readers, have you had any bad experiences with the Ontario College of Trades? I would love to hear your thoughts about the current system in place.
Leandra Greenfield is a licensed hairstylist and barber in Toronto, Canada. She has been cutting hair since she was 19 years old in the GTA. Leandra is currently pursuing a degree in public relations to help promote the hairstyling community.