Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2017)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 27, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Ontario College of Trades was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2017):
- Ontario College of Trades launched dedicated web pages to promote skilled trades to Aboriginal peoples, women and new Canadians and also launched an online mentoring program to help women in trades connect
- Ontario College of Trades is currently collaborating with Corrections Canada and Aboriginal communities to determine whether Aboriginal-specific trade certifications should be revived/created, such as Native Residential Industrial Worker and Native Clothing and Crafts Artisan
- Ontario College of Trades participates on the advisory committee for a 3-year research project funded by Status of Women Canada to explore barriers for women in construction as well as develop an action plan to increase representation -- additionally, the College works with the office of the Fairness Commissioner to ensure they recognize foreign trained credentials and remove any potential barriers for recognizing those credentials in their assessment process
Leveraging diversity at the Ontario College of Trades
When Alyssa Abraham began a four-month internship at the Ontario College of Trades in May 2014, she expected it to be the "typical office environment where staff did their jobs and kept their heads down." It turned out "it wasn't as quiet as I thought it would be," she says. "People were very sociable, and willing to help."
The College encourages staff to think beyond silos, she says. "If there are certain projects that you need help to do, you can reach across the organization to involve colleagues who have the right skills. They don't necessarily have to be from your own team. That really impressed me about the College."
She enjoyed the internship so much that, after graduating from the University of Toronto's Master's program in industrial relations and human resources, she joined the College full-time in April 2015 as a diversity and labour relations assistant. In January 2016, she became an HR business partner, a role which she describes as similar to an HR generalist.
The College is the industry-driven, professional regulatory body that protects the public by regulating and promoting the skilled trades in Ontario. One of its main duties is to ensure that individuals performing the work of any of the 23 compulsory trades have the training and certification legally required to practise in Ontario.
Abraham, who was born and raised in Trinidad but immigrated to Canada in 2006, was also pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the College's staff. "I could see the diversity just by looking around the office," she says. "We're working on leveraging that. If we are representative of our members, we can do so much more for them, because we understand where they're coming from."
The College staff certainly reflects the diversity of the province. Females comprise 51 per cent of the College's workforce and 44 per cent of the executive team. Visible minorities comprise 41 per cent of employees and nine per cent of managers. Aboriginals comprise five per cent of employees; persons with disabilities, six per cent; and LGBT, six per cent.
"Collectively we speak 38 different languages, and our documentation is available in multiple languages," says David Tsubouchi, the College's CEO and Registrar. "Diversity is not only part of what we do, it is part of what we are. It's embedded in the DNA of the College. You can't create equity and inclusion just by ticking a box and moving on."
The College's emphasis on diversity and inclusion in its hiring and promotion practices reflects its external objectives. "One of our aims is to make sure that we encourage groups that are under-represented in the trades - women, new Canadians and Aboriginals - to look at the trades as a viable career option," says Tsubouchi.
The requirement for Canadian work experience often hampers foreign-trained individuals wishing to pursue the same career they had in their homeland. To lessen that obstacle, the College has the Trade Equivalency Assessment.
"If you can show us that your work experience back home is equivalent to the years and scope of an apprenticeship in Ontario, you can go directly to the examination," says Tsubouchi. "You don't have to spend three years here gaining Canadian work experience."
The College also has a diversity council, composed of 17 employees representing all departments. Abraham helped organize the council in 2014, and then became one of its members, representing the HR department.
"When one of the council members hears a great idea from someone, they raise it in that forum for the College to implement," says Abraham. One such idea was to make diversity, equity and inclusion a part of on-board training for all new employees. The council also organized an event marking International Women's Day on March 8, 2016, and prepared a booklet informing staff about the holidays of various faiths.
"We're a vocal group," says Abraham. "But we decided to start small and grow, rather than jump in and try to do everything at once."