We will be developing a “Skills Bus” to provide experiential opportunities: Ian Howcroft, CEO, Skills Ontario


Ian Howcroft, CEO, Skills Ontario talks about the additional funding from secured Government of Ontario and lessons learnt from handling the pandemic. 

Ian Howcroft, CEO, Skills Ontario

What age group of people does Skills Ontario help to develop Skills?

Skills Ontario engages Ontarians of all ages. While a great deal of our programming is for youth and provides experiential learning opportunities to students from primary to post-secondary school, we also work with parents, educators, and the business community. Our core focus area is youth from grade 7 through to secondary school, but more recently, we’re reaching younger ages, as well as other stakeholders. The skilled trades and technologies offer incredible opportunities, and it is vital that young Ontarians have access to this information when they are considering their career paths. While we typically host several in-person events a year, Skills Ontario has quickly adapted to provide these opportunities virtually and promote skill development through our online conferences, #SkillsAtHome challenge series, virtual contests, live presentations, virtual summer camps, and more.

What industries is Skills Ontario majorly focussing on after COVID19?

This pandemic has demonstrated the importance of skilled professionals and their essential skills in our economy, as well as the need to promote these careers. As highlighted in our Virtual Skills Summit, where several industry experts representing every sector of the skilled trades and technologies spoke to the pandemic and how businesses can emerge through a skills based recovery, every sector and industry has a part to play now and post COVID-19. The construction, manufacturing, service, motive power, and technology sectors have all redefined their standards and are vital in Ontario’s post COVID-19 recovery.

Now you have received extra funding, where will this be utilized?

I’d like to thank the Honourable Minister Monte McNaughton, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, and the government of Ontario again for their support of Skills Ontario. With this additional funding, Skills Ontario will continue delivering learning opportunities for youth across the province, including an even greater emphasis on regional outreach, experiential and hands-on learning, and electronic resources. We will be developing a “Skills Bus,” a mobile unit that will allow us to provide experiential opportunities, and we will continue to engage stakeholders virtually and in-person as circumstances allow.

How many people have Skills Ontario trained over last year?

Skills Ontario reaches thousands of Ontarians as we are constantly running programs throughout the year – we do not conduct training, but we facilitate access to training with organizations we are partnered with. Through our programs, we reach over 365,000 students annually. In 2020 alone, we’ve gained over half a million impressions on our virtual initiatives. We’re proud to have such a great reach and look forward to continuing to connect with students, parents, educators, skilled professionals, business leaders, and advocates through our many initiatives.

How long are these training sessions for? Do the students get immediately industry ready after successful completion of the courses? Is there a certification for each course?

Skills Ontario connects youth to educational institutions and training facilities. One of the many ways we do this is by working with our partners to offer jobs to Skills Ontario Competition medalists, so that those training in a skilled trade or technology can have the opportunity to start working in their field immediately after competing. We also share helpful information on the programs Ontario’s colleges provide so that youth can explore their educational options in the skilled trades and technologies.

Could you share some data of Young Women and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit youth who have used SkillOntario over the past one year?

The virtual Women in Skilled Trades and Technologies conference saw over 1,200 viewers log in, and the Q&A period had such an overwhelmingly popular and positive response that we hosted a Follow-Up Live Q&A session with the female skilled professionals who made up our panel. The virtual First Nations, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) Student Conference hosted hundreds of viewers, with eight speakers discussing the many opportunities Indigenous youth can explore. Prior to the pandemic, we held these conferences in conjunction with the Skills Ontario Competition, and also held Young Women’s Career Exploration Events and FNMI Trades & Tech Days throughout the school year. Our Young Women’s Initiatives and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Initiatives ensure that our future skilled workforce is diverse and welcoming, as the skilled trades and technologies are suitable for all.

How has your journey been managing the company since the lockdown? 

I’m proud to say that Skills Ontario has quickly pivoted and adapted to the new virtual climate. Through our online conferences, #SkillsAtHome challenge series, virtual contests, live presentations, and virtual summer camps, we are continuing the learning and giving Ontarians opportunities to explore the skilled trades and technologies through interactive activities while staying safe at home. We’ve received a great deal of positive input and feedback, with stakeholders and program participants complimenting us on how quickly we were able to pivot.

Any words of wisdom for the youth during such times?

The skilled trades and technologies offer rewarding, lucrative, and fulfilling careers. Skilled professionals are always in high demand, meaning there is solid job security and great opportunities for advancement. This pandemic has highlighted just how important these careers are and how we all depend on these essential skills from an economic and health and safety perspective. Explore your potential career paths with Skills Ontario and find something you are passionate about – the skilled professions offer incredible opportunities!

For more information, kindly log on to : https://www.skillsontario.com/

This story edited by  Yugbodh, for The Onside Media, Canada, If you have stories to share kindly email: – info@theonside.com