The skilled worker shortage that plagues important trades in Ontario could be addressed at least in part if a new federal job skills measure—apparently introduced in today’s federal budget—works out the way it has been reported. Early reports indicate that the federal government will pay a third of the cost of training a worker, provided the applicable provincial government and the worker’s employer also each pay a third. The limit is reported to be $15,000.
Ontario is on the verge of a major new phase in the refurbishment of its nuclear generation fleet, which began with the Pickering #4 CANDU unit in 2003. Five subsequent unit refurbishments—four at the Bruce station on Lake Huron and another at Pickering—ensued. Preparations are underway to do the same with the Darlington station, east of Pickering on Lake Ontario; Darlington has four CANDUs.
A major issue in the provincial nuclear industry is the ageing workforce. It is absolutely imperative to develop ways to train up apprentices in order to ensure a ready workforce so as to keep refurbishments, which are very complex undertakings, on schedule and within budget. The budget for the new federal training program is reported to be $300 million per year. That of course is nation-wide. So there will of course be competition for that $300 million, and ready takers in oil sands operations, where trades are also in big demand.
There is also supposed to be some kind of focus on manufacturing in southern Ontario.
So the question is, how decisive will the new federal training program be on Ontario’s nuclear workforce, which is a huge engine of good employment both in Ontario and in Canada? There is no doubt the companies involved in the refurbishment will be prepared to spend, and spend big, to keep their workforce highly trained and ready for action on Darlington. Will Ontario’s provincial government kick in its third under the new program?