Ontario apprentices, hospitality workers getting help

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton speak to the media on May 22, 2020. Screengrab from Premier of Ontario/YouTube.

Workers in Ontario’s hospitality and construction sectors now have new resources as the province’s economy slowly reopens.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has launched a new Virtual Action Centre, an online portal designed to help workers in the hard hit tourism and hospitality industries find counselling and options for retraining. In addition, the province has set up the Ontario Tools Grant program to help apprentices purchase tools, equipment, work clothes, and other provisions.

Premier Doug Ford announced the initiatives with Labour Minister Monte McNaughton Friday afternoon at Queen’s Park.

“Hospitality workers and our skilled tradespeople have been among those hardest hit by this pandemic,” said Ford. “These new programs will ensure they’re ready to get back on the job and play an important role in our economic recovery.”

The Virtual Action Centre is a $2-million online partnership with Unite Here Local 75, a union representing hospitality and tourism workers. The job training resource will provide services via telephone and online messaging, such as stress and mental health counselling, health and safety training for those returning to work in quarantined sites, online technical training, refresher courses in English, French, and digital skills; and peer group facilitation.

Seven thousand unemployed or laid-off workers in the hospitality industry can be supported by the portal.

The Ontario Tools Grant will provide a total of $10-million in grants for new eligible apprentices over the next two years, to help provide them with the tools of their trades as they begin their careers. The province will distribute up to $1,000 for those in motive power sector trades, $600 for construction and industrial sector trades, and $400 for those in service sector trades.

The government is also forgiving $10-million in loans owed by 19,000 apprentices province-wide, who borrowed money to buy tools, equipment, clothing, manuals and code books. The average loan for those apprentices was $495.

With the trade industry still looking for qualified apprentices, McNaughton said the grants and loan relief will help them get their careers started, and jump into the workforce following any pandemic-caused layoffs.

“The programs that we are announcing today will leave more money in the pockets of our apprentices and support those hospitality workers who have been laid-off by providing access to the training and services they need to recover and rejoin the workforce,” said McNaughton. ”

To qualify for the Tools Grant, apprentices must have completed their Level I training on or after April 1 of this year, have an active registered training agreement, and have been registered as an apprentice for at least one year’s time.

Complete information on Ontario’s skilled trades industry can be found on the province’s official website.