THUNDER BAY — Confederation College president Kathleen Lynch calls the Ontario government's plan to build and upgrade skilled trades training centres "hugely disappointing" because colleges were left out of the announcement.
Premier Doug Ford revealed Tuesday that the province will spend $224 million to construct or upgrade private training centres, and $75 million over the next three years on operations and programming at these facilities.
In a statement Wednesday, Lynch described the government's strategy as disappointing for the college, its students and local employers.
"Colleges provide many of the best opportunities to prepare students for careers in the skilled trades and should have been a major part of this announcement," she said.
"As the major provider of trades training, investing in our existing aging facilities to create modern infrastructure makes good economic sense ... Ontario should be investing in the high-quality trades and apprentices programming at our colleges."
At Confederation, aging infrastructure includes the Dorion Trades Building.
Lynch was out of the city Wednesday for a meeting with her counterparts from other colleges, but John Kantola, dean of apprenticeship and special projects, described the Dorion Building as a mid-70s design that's "worn out" and no longer efficient.
He said the college has "band-aided" improvements over the years which have allowed the current building to function but a new, modern trades training facility is needed to help the college address the shortage that Ontario is already seeing in skilled trades personnel.
Premier Ford said the new funding will support training provided by labour groups, Indigenous centres, business and industry organizations.
"We're going to need thousands of new skilled construction workers to help build the infrastructure our growing population needs," he told media at a Labourers International Union of North American training centre outside Toronto.
LiUNA spokesperson Jack Oliveira welcomed the announcement, saying the funding will ensure that training providers in Ontario have the necessary tools to continue their work.
"We are proud to partner with Premier Ford and [Labour] minister [Monte] McNaughton in this initiative," Oliveira stated.
The business manager of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario, Marc Arsenault, also endorsed the funding, saying it will help boost "an already-robust building trades training system that produces highly-skilled apprentices and journeypersons."
But Linda Franklin, president and CEO of Colleges Ontario, criticized the plan, saying Ontario's 24 public colleges already have many training facilities that prepare people for careers in technology and the trades.
She also pointed out that many of these facilities urgently need capital repairs, and said that should be the priority for the government.
"Ontario must make a more serious commitment to students and their future careers," Franklin said.
"We're urging the government to embrace the power of working together to develop a more responsible approach to skills training."