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Editorial: April 2015

Power to the glaziers


Certification programs should focus on worker education.

Certification programs should focus on worker education.

After a launch that attracted a firestorm of complaints from construction-industry individuals – some of whom formed ad hoc groups to organize their opposition – the Ontario College of Trades has completed a big round of consultations and is ready to start moving forward again with developing designations for construction trade occupations and criteria for certification of tradespeople within those trades. Commercial glaziers already have a designation under the college: Architectural Glazing Technician. It is a non-mandatory designation, meaning an individual is under no obligation to register with the college before working in the trade, and a contractor is free to hire whomever they want whether certified by the college or not.

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The near-term goal of this effort is to provide some framework enabling contractors to judge whether a particular individual is trained to do the work for which they are hired. The long-term goal is harder to ascertain. At times I have heard the goal of the college is to establish a self-regulating regime under which tradespeople would determine training standards, certify tradespeople and possibly even discipline members who violate industry standards in a manner similar to other professional colleges, like doctors and lawyers. At other times and from other people, I have heard that the ultimate goal is to establish a province-wide certification scheme under which it becomes illegal for unlicensed trades-people to work on construction sites. Certainly this is where a lot of small private contractors think the college is heading, provoking in them every instinct to resist another attempt to expand government control and charge them fees.

I do not envy the task of any government official trying to ascertain what is actually best for the industry and the public on this question. I’m not sure how you would get advice from someone without a dog in the fight.

The approach in most of the country has been to put various certification programs in effect on a voluntary basis and to leave it to the market to decide whether they are needed or not. Nothing has prevented architects and building owners from demanding bidders provide proof of worker certification – but they almost never do.

So what is our poor bureaucrat to do? The answer will depend on their focus. To help small businesses enter the market and compete, and to help property owners build for less, the system should be left loose and voluntary. To help larger contractors, unions, schools and consultants, the system should be tightened and backed by laws. To me, the key point is the benefit to individual glaziers in becoming educated in the trade and receiving some formal recognition of that learning. To that end, I think something like the college should be in place, backed by a strong effort to promote the benefits of skilled labour to the people who will be using it.


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