After spinning its wheels on this file for three years, in January 2022, our Ontario government finally launched the new organization to oversee the promotion of skilled trades careers and the delivery of the province’s apprenticeship program, a Crown Agency called Skilled Trades Ontario (STO).  STO’s mandate is significantly trimmer and far less controversial than its predecessor, the Ontario College of Trades.  STO is not responsible for the highly contentious issues of prescribing and deprescribing trades, determining the status of trades as either voluntary or compulsory, determining the scopes of practice for trades, determining journeyperson-to-apprentice ratios for trades, and compliance and enforcement.  Those matters are now under the purview of the Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development.  STO is principally responsible for overseeing the promotion of skilled trades careers and developing and managing learning standards, and overseeing the delivery of apprenticeship curricula for the trades.

Michael Sherrard, founding partner of the labour and employment law firm Sherrard-Kuzz LLP was appointed Chair of STO’s Board of Directors.  Filling out the Board are James Barry (IBEW), John Breslin (Unifor), Lindsay Engel (Sheridan College), Mike Gallardo (Merit Ontario), Lee Greenberg (Policy Concepts), Ron Kelusky (retired, former Chief Prevention Officer), Jason Ottey (LiUNA), Kenneth Scott Player (former corporate finance executive and former corporate director), Karen Renkema-Millar (Progressive Contractors), Christine Wellenreiter (Canada Life).

To serve as STO’s Registrar & CEO and to lead its staff team, the government found a truly superior candidate with extensive experience in workforce development and a long association with the skilled trades, especially the construction trades, in the person of Melissa Young.   Immediately before joining STO, Melissa was the Executive Director of the National Electrical Trade Council for almost four years, before that she was the Assistant Director for Apprenticeship and Occupational Certification for the Province of New Brunswick for more than five years and before that she was the Atlantic Regional Co-Ordinator for Atlantic Apprenticeship Harmonization for almost three years. 

Melissa also knows the carpenter trade well as she worked for the Carpenters’ Union for more than 16 years, including a nine-year stint as the Executive Director of the Carpenters Training Centre of New Brunswick.  Among her numerous academic credentials, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of New Brunswick.  She is known to Ontario’s apprenticeship community as she was a member of the Michael Sherrard’s  Expert Panel that reviewed the province’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system, and she also served as a former Chair of the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship’s Communication and Promotion Committee and was a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum 

Melissa attended COCA’s Board of Directors meeting in December to provide an update on the status of Skilled Trades Ontario, to highlight what has been accomplished over the past 12 months and to outline what’s planned for 2023 and beyond.

COCA Board members found Melissa to be refreshingly plain-spoken and straightforward.  Her presentation sparked many questions from a fully engaged and well-informed COCA Board of Directors.  She was thanked by Chair Romeo Milano, who congratulated her on the progress that she has led at this new organization.