The Ford government is planning to invest millions more in the skilled trades sector in order to tackle Ontario's labour shortage.
The province plans to invest $224 million more to build and upgrade training centres, as well as $75 million more over the next three years to support the operations and programming at new and existing centres.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement in Vaughan Tuesday morning, alongside Labour Minister Monte McNaughton and Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy.
Eligible applicants such as unions, Indigenous centres, businesses and industry associations should be able to access applications for a new capital stream of the Skills Development Fund (SDF) in late spring.
“As our population grows, we’re working hand-in-hand with labour unions, business groups and our colleges and universities to train the skilled workforce that will build the roads, highways, houses, public transit, hospitals and schools our economy needs. It’s all hands on deck,” said Ford.
Nearly $700 million has been invested in the SDF since 2020, read a media release.
Funding to upgrade and convert existing training centres may be used to make repairs, expand operations, or add state-of-the-art technology.
“Ontario is facing the largest labour shortage in a generation,” said McNaughton. “Today, we’re supporting employers, unions and other training providers so that they can build and improve the facilities we need to attract and prepare our next generation of skilled trades workers.”
McNaughton said there are two solutions when it comes to filling the nearly 3,000 jobs that go unfilled.
One involves retraining residents and providing proper support in order to move people out of social assistance and into the workforce. McNaughton said the second solution involves working with the federal government on an immigration deal to fill labour shortages in the short term.
On Monday, McNaughton also outlined plans to better protect migrant workers who are abused by their employers.
Ontario's latest funding commitment comes just before the province plans to table its 2023 budget on Thursday.
“Ontario needs more workers in the skilled trades, especially as our government moves forward with the most ambitious capital plan in the province’s history”, said Bethlenfalvy. “By leveraging the expertise of private sector unions, employers and training providers, we can train and retrain more skilled trades workers to build a strong Ontario.”
Bethlenfalvy didn't provide details when asked about when Ontario can expect a balanced budget but said there are "only two more sleeps" until details will be revealed.
He said plans, like the one announced on Tuesday, will help the province navigate economic uncertainty.
"You can have a plan to build infrastructure, but if there's no people to build them... where are the construction folks? This is why we're here today because we have to think about not only making those critical investments today in our people that will help build Ontario but we have to look down the road a little bit," said Bethlenfalvy. "We obviously want to make sure that we have all the skilled labour but that we also retain it in this great province so that's what we're going to talk about on Thursday."
As specified in Ontario's third-quarter fiscal update last month, the province projected a $6.5 billion deficit for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, which was an improvement from the $12.9 billion deficit previously predicted in the fall economic statement.