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For the first time, skilled trades workers from the public services will meet and discuss how trades should be governed and certified and how apprenticeship programs can be improved, at a conference hosted by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario. The conference, being held tonight through Saturday at Toronto’s Hyatt Hotel, will feature an address by Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) Chair Kevin Whitaker on Friday morning. He has been tasked with implementing recommendations on trades and apprenticeships in Ontario contained in a report by Timothy Armstrong titled Compulsory Certification Project.

In these economic times, there’s a perfect opportunity to set up a new structure that can build skills and jobs for people in Ontario,” said CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan. “We see the public sector playing a key role in expanding apprenticeship and training strategies and initiatives. That’s because trade designations have moved far beyond the shop floor and into a wide range of public service jobs in health care, schools, municipal, social service and university sectors.”

While CUPE Ontario welcomes public discussion on this key labour force strategy issue, it has some differences with the directions laid out in the Armstrong report. Ryan and members of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) have just returned from a fact-finding mission in Europe. They looked at how Germany, Ireland and England are handling skills trades governance and apprenticeship programs and will provide a report to conference members.

At this conference, speakers will include:

Dates:         Thursday, November 20 – Saturday, November 22, 2008
Location:     Park Hyatt Hotel, 4 Avenue Road (at Bloor), Toronto

Thurs., Nov. 20:      Sid Ryan, CUPE Ontario President
6:30- 8:30 p.m.       Irene Harris, OFL secretary-Treasurer
                               European Apprenticeship Tour report

Fri., Nov. 21:          Kevin Whitaker, OLRB Chair
9:00 – 10:15 a.m. 

For more information, contact:

Valerie Dugale      CUPE Communications       647-225-3685