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News   August 23, 2017   by Allan Janssen

Ontario shop owner seeks OCOT funding for apprentices

Lindsey Bakker wants the Ontario College of Trades to pay two-thirds of the $400 “seat” cost for first-year apprentices, and one-third of the cost for second-year apprentices.


A Kingston shop owner is asking the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) to lend financial assistance to aspiring automotive, trucking, and collision technicians.

Lindsey Bakker, owner of Lindsey’s Tire and Auto Centre in Kingston, Ont., says he heads up a group of local motive power professionals who want OCOT to pay two-thirds of the $400 “seat” cost for first-year apprentices, and one-third of the cost for second-year apprentices.

The aid is necessary, he says, because aspiring technicians will not make high wages in their first few years, even as they face huge career costs, like the investment of thousands of dollars in tools.

“There is a high cost of entry in this industry,” he said. “If we can help apprentices just a little bit, we can really help people stay in the industry. It would be a good way to support the trade’s future.”

Bakker has written an elaborate proposal with graphs and charts, which he hopes will lead to a favourable decision this fall. The proposal would cost about $1.38 million per year.

“We could probably ask for more, but we’re trying to be realistic,” he says. “We could ask for them to pay all of the seat cost for the first two years, but if people are handed things, 100 per cent, they don’t give it their all.”

He describes the financial relief as a way for the college to give back to its motive power members, who contribute some $9.1 million a year to OCOT coffers. He also points out that OCOT recently invested about $15 million of its $24 million available cash.

But Jamie Holmes, a member of OCOT’s board of governors, who has had email exchanges with Bakker, says there are a couple of basic problems with the idea.

“Number one, it’s not our mandate. Our mandate is to protect the public interest, and promote the trades,” he says. “Number two, that’s not our money to give out. OCOT does, at present, have a surplus, and that surplus has been invested, on behalf of the members, to make money to support the college.”

Holmes says the matter would be more properly brought to the Motive Power Trade Board, a group of technicians and shop owners that could bat the idea around and decide if it has sufficient merit to be brought to the board of governors.

“Any initiatives have to start there,” he says. “And they’ll be more than happy to talk to him. They’ll have that discussion with him. That’s why we have a grass-roots system.”

Bakker says he likes the progress OCOT has made in setting up a public registry of licensed technicians, and in expressing an interest in working with other provinces to develop a national curriculum and licensing program for automotive professionals.

The seat funding is only the first idea that he has to help OCOT further prove its worth to technicians.

“The next step we want to take is to ask the government to either raise the ceiling of tool costs that apprentices can claim, or remove the ceiling entirely,” he says. “And down the road, I’d like to make it so that automotive professionals are the only ones who can buy brake and suspension parts.”

He says the changes are necessary to safeguard the industry’s future.

“I’m 54 years old and, like a lot of shop owners and technicians my age, we’re soon going to be getting out of this business. It’s going to leave a big void,” he says. “I want to try to stop the bleeding of our trades. I want to bring the health and prosperity back into our trades.”


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12 Comments » for Ontario shop owner seeks OCOT funding for apprentices
  1. Chris Palanek says:

    I am shocked that I have come to learn that the college has these huge surpluses after only a few years. This sounds more like organized theft of our hard earned money than anything else. Why don’t they invest it on our behalf and present the members with a small pension plan or something like that or do the decent thing which would be to reduce the annual membership cost until it was revenue neutral. We should be alarmed that this “College” exists now, mostly without need, and they are gathering surpluses. I sure haven’t seen any improvements to the daily working life of a Motive Power Trades member as a result of this “college”.

  2. Bob Ward says:

    I do like Lindsey’s thoughts. Perhaps another angle to approach OCOT is to initiate an aggressive information program to attract new apprentices. Currently the apprenticeship programs have no appeal. Guidance counsellors need to be better educated to direct students to co-op programs in the trades. Currently the co-op programs are under utilised and abused by employers. I believe this is where we need to focus.

  3. Sid Spencer says:

    Just so that have it straight. Jamie Holmes of OCOT said in the CARS article that it is not their mandate. Their mandate is to protect public interest and to promote the trades. I don’t understand how appealing to people to come into the “red seal” trades by offering some educational renumeration is not promoting the trades.
    As far as I’m concerned, the protection of public interests should start at not allowing jobbers to sell brake and front end parts to the diy’s.
    The coffers in the OCOT should always be near empty if they are promoting and protecting. It almost sounds similar to the Ontario Tire Stewardship fee. They don’t know what to do with the money but they know that they have to charge something. So now it’s being disbanded because of it’s ineffectiveness. Go figure.

  4. Bob Ward says:

    OCOT does have the job of promoting the trades. I agree they need to improve the job they are currently doing. Currently there are two incentives available to employers who take on apprentices. The first one is a $5000.00 tax credit and the second one is a $1000.00 signing incentive. Perhaps this is where we could benefit more by increasing these incentives.

  5. Peter Foreman says:

    Interesting problem in Ontario. In BC, we have an overabundance of 1st year apprentices and a major drop off after completing 2nd year…..

  6. Lindsey Bakker says:

    All great ideas everybody. Everybody should phone OCOT and get their friends and their friends to phone and let them know it is time to start to help us out. It’s time for OCOT to start to listen to it’s members.

  7. I agree with all the above. There should be no ceiling on tools that can be claimed at tax time. If they are buying a certain brand name tools or scanners can be extremely costly. Secondly the safety of others on the road depends on the parts being installed properly. Why does a licenced mechanic have to have a great deal of hours on brakes, suspension, steering to pass & get their ticket. Yet a customer can walk in off the street purchase these same parts & go home and install them and hit the road . Thirdly WHY oh WHY do these people get to walk in off the street & purchase these same parts at the same cost as we get them for sometimes less. Yet we can easily drop over $100,000 a year at any one jobber’s business. How does this possibly make sense? Love to hear the explanation. I have been asking our jobbers for years. With no answers replied except a shrug of the shoulders.
    Deb Dennie

  8. Allan Janssen says:

    If I understand the situation properly, OCOT has a fiduciary responsibility to put some money aside in the event that government priorities change and the college has to operate independently or wind down. In that sense, the money is spoken for. Funding automotive apprentices would definitely be difficult since all the other trades would want similar considerations. It is an interesting idea, but I think the college’s main focus still seems to be protecting the public. Promoting the trades is a distant second.

  9. George S says:

    Back when I was in the apprenticeship program, we had assistance from Manpower. That pretty much went the way of the dinosaur by 1980. From then on, the technician was laid off and had to apply for unemployment insurance, which sometimes never showed up until the tech was back at work. Of course when the UI (now EI) checks started coming in the government clawed the money back because the tech was now back at work–never mind the fact that he/she was living on nothing until then. We took some of those issues to our MP and got some of it reversed but there was still a massive gap. A lot of shop owners now just keep the tech on the payroll through apprenticeship with the promise that the tech will give the shop a minimum (2) years before looking elsewhere for employment. Most of those shop owners have reported reasonable success, and they’ve been able to keep the techs from seeking other careers.

    Don’t even talk to me about tools being deductible. I signed enough petitions to make the tree huggers suffer a major coronary. I have no doubt that most of the petitions went directly to the shredder. I told one of the tool vendors (who was circulating a petition) that I would be willing to contribute to legal proceedings to put more pressure on the powers that be. At that time I knew of people in three other trades who were allowed to deduct a considerable sum for proper gear, tools, equipment, and one even got to use his personal truck to go to and from the construction site. It was discrimination against auto and heavy duty repair technicians. But that never went very far. I’m sure it was ten years before apprentices were allowed some relief.

  10. Lindsey Bakker says:

    As per the proposal the funding requested for apprentices per year is only an estimated14.5% of what our three trades pay OCOT per year in membership fees. Give all the other trades 14.5% of what they pay in membership fees towards helping out their apprentices. OCOT still makes money. It’s time OCOT shares the focus with the people who support OCOT.

  11. Brad Swanson says:

    I have read all the comments above and the article. To me it is shocking how little any of the stakeholders, which is each one of us, actually knows about OCOT. The mandate for Ontario College of Trades is as stated above, public safety first and promotion and regulation of the trades. Sounds simple doesn’t it. In the past year there has been a great deal of work done to ensure compliance to regulations in the trades. The majority of the issues found under enforcement and compliance is in the automotive sector. Furthermore, great deal of time and effort has been put into producing new Red Seal exams for use in Ontario and other provinces. OCOT has also opened a web site called EARN WHILE YOU LEARN. Check it out. OCOT has been flipped from one ministerial department to another and recent legislation has changed some of the expectation of what is managed by the college. In the automotive sector alone much work has been done by the advisory board, to try to modernize the Scope of practice and exemptions list to modernize it.

    I do agree our secondary and post secondary institutions are failing to steer more of the students we need into our trades and I do feel the College needs to work at the secondary school level to improve that, but it takes time.

    OCOT has no control over tax incentives, that is a Revenue Canada department.

    Regarding the comments in the article, I appreciate the frustration many have about the lack of high quality apprentices, and the struggles they endure. This is not just an issue in our trade but all trades. We trades. We need more community involvement to promote trades. We need employers to be willing to take a risk on those with an interest in the trades, even those without experience, so we do not miss the good ones that are out there. Funding dollars for the trades are there. Our need employers and technicians to become better spokesmen for the government funds “Pre Apprenticeship” programs at all major institutions yet there is a perception that there is no funds for education. Pre Apprenticeship programs in my opinion do nothing to benefit the trades, that could not be solved with in shop learning and productivity. So if employers are more willing to hire newcomers with little or no experience to the trades, take a chance on them, maybe we will be able to find “the right” people for our trade.

    Finally, I hear a lot about the Ontario College of Trades that is frankly incorrect. You pay into OCOT to regulate your trade and you deserve to know what you are getting for that fee, other than just another licence renewal. That information is there for you at http://www.collegeoftrades.ca and also in the Trades Today publication available through the college. There is also positions available in the governing structure of the college, which you can apply to by visiting http://cot-appointments.ca/

    If you have ideas or feel you are not getting any benefit from OCOT, get involved.

    • Lindsey Bakker says:

      Maybe OCOT could release journeyperson and apprentice numbers between 2014 and 2016 for our three trades. Maybe OCOT could also supply attrition numbers for our trades and also numbers for journeypersons who are currently licensed but not active members in our three trades. Thee above reply would be more palatable if our numbers weren’t decreasing while OCOT continues to make cash in bank/year of over $6 million. Also OCOT’s investment in 2016 of just shy of $15 million without being transparent to it’s members at least has a bad optics. Time to invest in our apprentices!

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