Provinces and territories need to implement DOST

Matt Jones
November 03, 2016
By Matt Jones

It’s great that after over two years of work by the non-profit Asia Pacific Skills Table, and an infusion of nearly $800,000 in taxpayer money, a national demonstration of skills tests for mobile crane operators is ready to be put into action.

It would be a huge shame if Canada’s provincial jurisdictions that don’t have a DOST, as the practical assessment is called, fail to enact this gift to them.

Ideally, the DOST, as a national standard, should be woven into the national Red Seal program for the trade. That’s what the crane industry — including the sector’s most powerful union — wanted to happen. But alas, it looks as though that was simply too much to hope for.

According to the website of the Canadian Council of the Directors of Apprenticeship — the voluntary partnership of federal, provincial, and territorial governments that manages the Red Seal program — “the CCDA does not have vested regulatory powers regarding training and certification in the skilled trades.”

That lack of power certainly poses an obstacle — not only to implementing a DOST but also in working toward the related yet separate goal of harmonizing apprenticeship standards across Canada’s 15 jurisdictions.

The bottom line is that each of the 15 representatives on the CCDA “is accountable to the jurisdiction that they represent.”

The CCDA has considered implementing practical assessments for trades in the past. Way back in 1986, the council instituted such a policy statement for the trades of welder and hairstylist, according to a 2014 report prepared by consultants North Pacific Training & Performance Inc. for the Asia Pacific Skills Table. “CCDA provided no criteria or standards to clarify this policy,” the report noted. The jurisdictions responded by offering some forms of practical assessment. But in the case of the welders, those assessments, which came from two national standards organizations, were adopted “inconsistently.” And in the case of the hairstylists, “a variety of formats of practical skills assessment (were) put in place in each jurisdiction.” The result was assessments that were “highly variable” — not what one would consider to be standardized at all.

In 2011, the CCDA’s Interprovincial Standards and Examination Committee, or ISEC, set out to harmonize the hairstylist practical assessment content and processes. That effort also met with “significant resistance” for several reasons, including a reluctance to make changes to existing systems, but most of all because of a lack of agreement on how to define and conduct a practical assessment.

ISEC members ultimately agreed that the solution was to develop benchmarks for the competencies and standards of hairstyling and that the jurisdictions must meet or exceed these benchmarks. That turned out to be one of the recommendations the North Pacific report made for harmonizing a DOST for mobile crane operators.

Well, it looks as though a benchmark is what the recently completed DOST documents represent — whether that was the intent or not. Provincial and territorial jurisdictions can now use the “turnkey” DOST package, as an Asia Pacific Skills Table news release described it, as a benchmark to implement their own practical assessments. The sooner, the jurisdictions get started on this, the better. Better that than wait for the CCDA to become empowered to act.

Now pardon us for saying so, but nobody ever died from a bad haircut (unless the stylist was named Sweeney Todd). So it makes sense to ensure that the standards for operating a crane are at least as thorough as the standards for operating a pair of scissors.

No jurisdiction would dream of issuing a driver’s licence without the driver demonstrating the kills to operator a motor vehicle. An even more stringent test should be applied to anyone operating a mobile crane.

That’s what the national demonstration of skills test is all about. What’s not to like? It was developed at great cost and by people who know what they’re doing — such as Allan Bruce, an independent consultant with 40 years experience who was a Red Seal crane operator who from 2002 to 2012 and an international representative with the Canadian office of the International Union of Operating Engineers; and Lionel Railton, also a former crane operator and the Canadian director of the IUOE. Those who served on the project committee and technical working group for the DOST project are a veritable who’s who of Canada’s crane industries. If they can come together on a skills testing regime, then it’s something regulators across the Canada simply have to look at closely. Now, not later.

Keith Norbury

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