On October 15, 2020, Atin Ito Publisher Leonardo Santos spent a little time interviewing Minister Monte Gary McNaughton, of the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. He explained the programs that his ministry is undertaking to support the labour force and the economy amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
ATIN ITO: Good afternoon Minister McNaughton, and thank you very much for giving us the time today. Would you care to give an opening statement?
MGM: First I want to say hello to your community, to your viewers and supporters and thank them for their contributions to our communities right across the province of Ontario. I know I share a lot of the values that your community, readers and supporters have and I just want to share that on behalf of Premiere Ford and our government thank you so much for everything that everyone has done during Covid-19 during the first wave and now obviously with the second wave here. I know everybody is really working together and we have to keep working together to mitigate the risk of Covid-19. I want to thank your community and say let’s keep working together so we can get through this pandemic
ATIN ITO: Thank you very much Minister. On September 3rd, you announced a $37 million investment in Skills Training to aid in the economic recovery of Ontario. Any developments since then as this was in the early part of September before the second wave. Any updates to that program?
MGM: Well, making sure that we have workers with the proper skills and the proper training is going to be a key part of the economic recovery here in Ontario. Prior to Covid-19, every single day in the province, over 200,000 jobs were going unfilled. According to the Conference Board of Canada that was costing the economy about $25 million every year and so for me this is a huge priority. But more than that it is so important for people to find good meaningful jobs because good jobs obviously change lives, strengthens families and helps our communities. So we announced $37 million to invest to help 15,000 people get the skills required to find good meaningful jobs. So we’re focusing on training more personal support workers, ensuring that people have the right skills to find jobs in advanced manufacturing, to have the skills required to find IT jobs. We know for example that for the programs we are funding for IT jobs that 100% of the people that are going through the training have jobs even before the program has ended. So it’s a fully concerted effort to get people trained to find these good jobs.
ATIN ITO: Could you elaborate further in terms of how many people have benefited from the training programs that the province has invested in?
MGM: As I said 15,000 people will benefit from the $37 million investment. Currently there are a number of programs underway. For example, I was in Scarborough to highlight a partnership that we’re doing to help military veterans who have served overseas when they return to the GTA to get technology and IT skills to find great jobs. These jobs for example start at about $90,000 per year. I was in St. Catharines where we had a class of 30 personal support workers (PSWs) who started their training at the beginning of September. Ninety percent (90%) of them already have job offers. So literally there are thousands of people getting trained today, a lot of these will be short duration training but they’ll have jobs when completed.
ATIN ITO: It takes a little bit of time to get people trained. So depending on the type of training they’re getting, to be able to acquire and practice those skills so they become better at it, takes a lot of time. What is the timetable as far as these trainee beneficiaries are concerned in terms of being actually productive to be able to really contribute to the recovery of the economy?
MGM: Well that’s true. One of the focuses for Premiere Ford and the ministry that I lead, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development is to get people the skills as quickly as possible so they can enter the job market as quickly as possible. The PSW program that I reference is a forty week program so these people will be out serving our loved ones very soon. Most of these programs are 12 months or under, the retraining programs. The goal is to get people out into the workforce to find these good meaningful jobs as quickly as possible as well as to fill these labour market shortages that many of the small businesses that we talk to are faced with.
ATIN ITO: In the press release that came out on September 3rd, part of the investment to be allocated went to the Ford Motor Company for about a million dollars and that is basically the plant in Oakville. How is that coming along relative to some discussions with Unifor for instance in the recent weeks?
MGM: Well certainly since then there is great news. The Ford Motor Company is building a brand new manufacturing facility in Oakville to build a number of electric vehicles right here in Ontario. Furthermore, we’re actually going to get supply chains so we’re really working hard to ensure that the electric vehicle batteries are built here in Ontario. There is a skills gap and a skills shortage in advanced manufacturing including automotive. So what we’ve done is created a number of internship positions for young people to work in automotive manufacturers like Ford, Honda, Chrysler and a number of these right across the province. It’s getting these young people the skills necessary and introducing them to the opportunities and good jobs that actually exist in plants and manufacturing across the province.
ATIN ITO: So once again there is a future element to this. It will take time but then again you’re looking forward to aiding in whatever gaps there are as far as the automotive industry is concerned by giving people adequate skills to take on those jobs in the future. That’s the whole concept, right?
MGM: Yes absolutely. These are great jobs. They have benefits and pensions. It’s the things we all want for our own kids. As I said jobs change lives and these ones in particular are really beneficial to the families across the province but in order for Ontario to attract the Fords, Chryslers, Hondas and Toyotas of the world, we need to ensure that we have a talented workforce and we certainly do have great workforce in Ontario but again we have over 200,000 jobs, part of Covid going unfilled everyday and we just need to ensure that we can fill those jobs with the people with the skills required.
ATIN ITO: I also understand that part of the investments are being made to the Greenhouse Academy in Thorndale. Any details on this Minister?
MGM: Yes again it’s not a one size fits all where periodic $37 million to train 15,000 workers across the province. We are partnering with associations, organizations and businesses, public colleges and career colleges and universities to provide this training. One of those we’re partnering with is to ensure for example is for work in horticultural jobs which is the one I you’re referencing. There’s a huge shortage in the agricultural sector across the province. Every industry is faced with a shortage in Ontario. So it’s my job and my ministry’s job to ensure that we’re finding those people that want to upskill, get them the training necessary and get them to one of these jobs as quickly as possible. I heard all kinds of stories when since I travelled across the GTA and the province about just how impactful it is when people find these new jobs, these meaningful jobs and how it really transforms people’s lives and that’s what I want to continue to focus on.
ATIN ITO: The province is also embarking on a lot of infrastructure projects. I guess there’s also a need for training as far as workers are concerned to support those programs. Are those also part of the investment?
MGM: Absolutely, the one thing we haven’t touched on yet are the opportunities that exist in the skill trades so Premiere Ford is going to be embarking on the largest subway projects in the province’s history. There are a number of subway projects in Toronto for example and we need to find workers to build these projects. Over the next several years, there’s going to be a shortage of 28,000 trades people in the province. I think this is one of the greatest opportunities that exist for young people so my mission is to get more young people into the skill trades and really tell people that there are exciting lucrative meaningful careers awaiting them in the skill trades. One of the things I am really focused on is ending the stigma. A lot of people think that these jobs aren’t meaningful for example but I mean that the pride that these people have in the things that they build is something that can pass down for generations and again we all know carpenters, electricians and other skill trades people that are making six figures a year have got pensions and benefits and this is what we want for families in Ontario.
ATIN ITO: Recently there have been restrictions imposed by the province due to the second wave of Covid-19. Those will have economic impact for sure. Are there any other programs being conceptualized by your ministry to support more of the economy that will be affected in the coming weeks and months as long as the second wave is not controlled?
MGM: Certainly our government’s priority is to continue protecting the health and well-being of all of the families across the province. Certainly people are feeling the pain, the small businesses, the restaurants for example, are facing very difficult and challenging times. Two things that we have been doing at the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development is number one is really focusing on health and safety of workers and the public at large and ensuring that guidelines are in place. Our labour inspectors are really working with small businesses to help them through these very challenging times. Secondly, really focusing on those workers who have been impacted by Covid-19. Keep in mind that in the first 2-3 months of the pandemic hitting Ontario, over a million people lost their jobs. Now thankfully, three quarters of a million have found work again but there are still a lot of people who are suffering. Our job is to connect with those people as quickly as possible, help them find the training they need, enter one of these short duration training programs and get back out into the workforces as quickly as possible. I credit all levels of government for working together. For example, the federal government is helping provide income to people while they’re getting trained which is very helpful along this journey.
ATIN ITO: Unfortunately, your time is very limited. Before we conclude, would you like to provide a summary or closing remarks to make?
MGM: Again I just believe strongly that jobs change lives. Good meaningful jobs help families and that family unit and really strengthen our communities and I am laser focused to ensure that we have training programs to help people that have been impacted by the pandemic. Ontario has been hit hard just like every other place around the world but a key part of getting out of this is to ensure that we have the right training programs in place to help people find hope and opportunity going forward.
ATIN ITO: Thank you very much for your time again Minister. We are very grateful for you’re taking time off to share with us, the Filipino-Canadian community here in Ontario and elsewhere a brief idea of what is going on so they can basically thrive and weather the storm of Covid-19.
MGM: I just want to say thanks to your community. You all make Ontario and Canada a better place. We just thank you for all your contributions and I wish all your readers and supporters all the best and God bless everyone.
ATIN ITO: Thank you very much Minister and God bless to you and your family.
Publisher’s Note: Atin Ito welcomes any reactions, any other relevant information and submissions from all interested parties regarding the contents of this article. Please email us @info@AINewsMediaOne.com.
About Minister Monte Gary McNaughton
Monte Gary McNaughton is the current Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development of Ontario. He is a Progressive Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario who represents the riding Lambton—Kent—Middlesex. He has been a member since the 2011 election. Prior to his election, he served as President of the Strathroy and District Chamber of Commerce, and he served on the board of Four Counties General Hospital Foundation.
About Leonardo Santos:
Leonardo Santos is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with B.S. Industrial Engineering and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees. He has had a number of professional and leadership roles in a number of IT and Telecommunications companies in the Philippines prior to becoming a Permanent Resident of Canada.