Welcome to the site; I hope you find it informative. I'll discuss a wide variety of trades-related topics that reflect my own path in the trades, and issues relevant to what is happening with the new "College of Trades" here in the province of Ontario. Be sure to check older posts, and I'd welcome your comments


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sennett's "The Craftsman": A Review

It's taken a while to get through a book I'd very much looked forward to reading, but a couple brief tries I'd found difficult. Following on-line reviews explained why. I've been a lond admirer of Richard Sennett for his insight, wisdom and genuineness, and since his writing had always be very professional it was a shock to several of us to see such a poor treatment of an important subject published with such an obvious absence of an editor. Typos are numerous and sentences often disjointed.

In Sennett's book a topic that is based on long practice, tolerance of failure, struggling with internalized standards of excellence, becomes "craftman-ness" presented as a quality to be shared with all who do work well. If fact, the modern day exemplars are, if you can believe it, Linux contributors, self-styled programmers. If Sennett thinks these guys are craftsmen, then for all his disjointed and rambling assemblage of snippets of research on the topic, he certainly doesn't understand it at all.
What's New?

Substantial changes have taken place in the trades here in Ontario! In summary:

1. For over a hundred designate trades who traded a wall certificate entitled "Certificate of Qualification" updated every three years with a blue seal for a much more expensive letter attempting to convince us how much better off we will be when we update,  much frustration and anger with regards to lack of benefit from the change. No efforts to better regulate trade certification and prevent fly-by-night unqualified contractors gave made any impact on the trades in my view.

In fact, the only impact has been new apprenticeships such as 'call center operators' who train in hours and weeks not years.  Believe it or not, I say a tradesman today who still carries just that qualification from previous employment at which time he received a pseudo- apprenticeship and two thousand dollars "tool allowance". All so that somebody somewhere could take credit for expanding apprenticeships and the government could congratulate themselves while real apprenotices struggled to pay bills and get in enough hours to complete their trade certification.

Next post:
2. Why the core mandatory trades hold their distinction in site of civil respect for labour related jobs that have been included in the fold for someone's convenience.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Facing Changes.....

I've been away for quite a while, just no time for writing and thinking about the trades. I hope to be able to add some constructive elements.

I've been working full time as an electrician, long hours, plus part time business, so an adjustment is welcome.

Changing Role of High School Guidance Counsellors

Here's an article worth reading on the long-standing issue of guidance counsellors' under-representing skilled trades to prospective students. The author suggests that the situation is improving, but not all commenters are in agreement. The conversation also was divided on the struggles of many tradespeople to sustain employment and reasonable wages and benefits as compared to comparable work. Others' seem to have joined the $200,000. club and can't understand the angst. Where I work, I'm closer to the former.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Canadian Apprenticeship Journal

Very pleased to share in the inaugural issue of the Canadian apprenticeship Council's new print and on-line journal. I've an article in it on apprenticeships, hope it provides enlightenment on the experience of being "new on the block".


Check it out!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I hate Learning!


I highly recommend this post by Doug Stowe. Excellent reflection on learning with the hands.

Am also reading through Richard Sennett's book "The Craftsman" for a review soon. Very good material.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ratios & The Construction Trades

 The reality of replacing retiring tradespeople is likely, as it seems to me at present, settling down to two groups; those trades such as auto mechanics which lend themselves to two or three full time stints at tech school, and apprenticeships.

A couple of guys I've talked to recently are mid-thirties and have gone through an obstacle course to get into an apprenticeship and stay employed. Compare that to parents of young people who are more than happy to pay for two or three years of college (or tech school) after which an employer can have a young person with a substantial jump start on the trade.

Construction trades are very much different. Work is much less consistent and must be primarily learned on the job. Labour standards are much less consistently enforced, making it much more of a battle to collect a regular paycheck and have any paid benefits; pensions are rare. At many levels, I think that bringing in skilled workers from other countries while we have so many young people wanting to apprentice is a very poor solution. However, without changes to apprenticeship practice, that's what will happen.

I've also given some thought to the union's argument that changing the ratios would cause a glut of apprentices and jeopardize the jobs of journeymen. That is in fact what happened during the early 80's recession; I went from being a foreman of three journeymen and three apprentices to being a foreman of three apprentices. Did a lot of baby-sitting those days. As an older tradesman, even though I more than pull my weight, maybe I should be thankful.  

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Apprenticeship Ratios Update

I've been on a learning curve about these ratios. The link below is to a Connecticut based research article that seems to indicate fair uniformity for electrical, plumbing and HVAC trades. They typically start out 1:1 for a self employed tradesman, 2:2, 3:5 etc. For greater numbers, the ratio becomes 3:1.

End result? Big contractors need to hire more journeymen as they grow. The panic has started recently as journeymen get older. What hasn't happened, is wages increasing very much. 

Friday, December 4, 2009


Here's a site worth checking out; designed for professional electricians, it has job listings and items of interest to tradespeople. Take a look!


Monday, November 23, 2009

Apprenticeship Ratio's & The College of Trades

I've posted a couple times about the new Ontario College of Trades recently instituted by the McGinty government. One of the first issues to be tackled is the 3:1 ratio of journeymen to apprentices. In my day the ratio was 1:1, and with all the concern about boomers like myself retiring, there is no way to graduate new journeymen, considering the attrition rate between sign-up and completion, without dealing with the ratio. I don't know the history on why it was changed, and would be very interested in any assistance in finding out.

It's astonishing considering all the media coverage of "skilled worker shortages" that we're dealing with this at this time. The suggestion has been made that we should import tradesmen to fill the gap. No, let's get Ontario young people into apprenticeships!

This is definitely an issue the public needs to be aware of.

By the way, here's a link to a utube video clip of an evaluation of the new College of Trades that I feel makes several good points. It features the Conservative critic speaking prior to the bill's passing. I'm also waiting to talk to anyone in the trades who cares in the least, never mind be willing to part with $100. a year to fund it.