Ontario’s Skills Development Fund


Ontario is facing a skilled trades gap – around 300,000 jobs remain unfilled each day. 

This trend will seriously hinder the economic success of the province if unaddressed. Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives (PCs) have taken this issue very seriously, evident in the fact that promoting the skilled trades, and increasing the number of individuals that enter skilled trades, has been at the forefront of their agenda since they formed government. They have introduced a host of initiatives, including trading and funding programs, aimed at solving this problem. One of the most significant among these initiatives, is the Skills Development Fund (SDF). 

The SDF seeks to strengthen the supply of skilled labour in local communities across the province by providing free training pathways connecting job seekers with employers in urgent need of more trained labour. A range of organizations, from employers to trade unions to education institutions qualify for funding under the program, providing they demonstrate its use will serve the core criteria set out by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. Qualifying projects include, inter alia, those that address the labour shortage, stimulate growth, increase Ontario’s long-term economic competitive advantage, and help individuals and communities facing barriers to employment.

Ontario recently announced an additional $160 million in SDF funding, which will help more than 100,000 workers attain free skilled trades training. To date, 596 projects have received SDF funding, serving more than half a million jobseekers. The total investment in this initiative now exceeds $860 million. 


The Ontario PC government needs political wins now. Likely due to recent issues involving the removal of selected lands from the Greenbelt, public opinion continues to move against them. They have recently seen a significant decline in their popular support. This is exactly what the other political parties want. The longer the focus of the public remains on the recent controversy, the more the Liberals and NDP stand to gain. Therefore, announcements related to the SDF and other targeted measures to address the skills gap present an opportunity for the PCs to shift focus away from Greenbelt and towards a more positive theme of improving economic opportunity. 

All parties recognize the challenges that Ontario is facing in keeping pace with labour market demand, and all support meaningful measures to address this. However, it can be argued that the Ontario PCs are, in fact, placing a greater emphasis on tackling the skills gap issue than their Liberal predecessors did. Indeed, with the emphasis that the PCs have placed on equipping Ontarians with the skills they need through new education resources and support, they are filling a void that they inherited from the previous Liberal government. Skilled trades, and tackling the gap, are winning issues for the Ontario PC Government. The more media attention they can attract to this and related issues, the better. 


Skilled trades labour shortages are not only being faced in Ontario. Recent reports have noted the same challenges unfolding in southern Alberta. For example, in the construction industry there, it is estimated that, by 2030, over 20 percent of their labour force will retire. Additionally, a recent report released by CIBC indicates that there are currently around 800,000 job vacancies in southern Alberta’s construction industry, a record high. In response to this, Alberta has recently announced new funding in support of apprenticeships; however, the scale of their recent investments is not comparable to what has been rolled out in Ontario. In September, the Alberta government committed $12.4 million to create around 2000 new apprenticeships. Taking this into account, with the ambitious levels of funding and opportunity provided through the SDF, Ontario has not only the opportunity to attract more positive media coverage in the face of ongoing issues, but also to be a standard bearer for the rest of the nation on how to effectively address skills gaps emerging across different parts of the country. 


  • “Our government believes in second chances, and we know that comebacks are possible. Providing free labour training to those with criminal records who want to contribute to Ontario’s economy will result in a safer Ontario. The Skills Development Fund not only builds careers that move our economy forward, but it also provides second chances to Ontarians, so they aren’t left behind.”
  • Hon. Michael Kerzner, Solicitor General 
  • “The Skills Development Fund is life-changing for Ontarians who are able to work in these important careers. We know that hundreds of thousands of Ontarians are ready and willing to undertake critical jobs that are much needed to drive forward the changes to build an Ontario where everyone can thrive.”
  • Hon. Michael Parsa, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services


  • “We would like to recognize and thank the Government of Ontario and the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development for the support and investments they are making to promote and develop Ontario’s workforce of the future. The Skills Development Fund has been a game changer in helping young people move forward in the skilled trades and technology careers. Skills Ontario was thrilled to receive funding from the SDF allowing us to expand our Mobile Skills Program and build three new Trade & Tech Trailers. This funding will fuel our mission to provide thousands of youths across the province with hands-on learning experiences to ignite an awareness of opportunities in the skilled trades and technologies and drive more young people to pursue these careers.”
  • Ian Howcroft, CEO at Skills Ontario
  • “Getting working automotive tradespeople the skills that they need and getting more people into the rapidly evolving automotive industry is essential. The Skills Development Fund has been pivotal to helping participants further their careers in the automotive sector, and has helped address our collective goals of ensuring a more resilient workforce, empowering workers and job seekers who face higher barriers of entry, and enhancing pathways into meaningful employment.”
  • Jean-François Champagne, President and CEO, Automotive Industries Association of Canada


  • “Millions of Canadians have now returned to work after losing their jobs at the start of the pandemic, but there is still much more we can do. By investing in skills training and employment supports, we are investing in our biggest asset – our people. We will keep working with all provinces and territories to get the economy back up and running and Canadians back to work.”
  • The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
  • “Bolstering the skilled trades is an ongoing need in our community, and we’re excited to have programs like SkillShift that highlight this and actively strive to strengthen the industry in Chatham-Kent.”
  • Darrin Canniff, Mayor of Chatham-Kent


Ontario is confronting multiple crises on housing and affordability, and now confronts severe public and media backlash from recent decisions related to the management of the Greenbelt. Amidst all this, Ontarians are searching for hope and opportunity. In the SDF, and similar initiatives, focused on improving outcomes for jobseekers and businesses that most need it, the Ontario PC government has an avenue for beginning to restore that hope and gain back the trust of the many working families who can benefit from this. Significant progress is being made already. For example, during question period on 26 September 2023, the Hon. David Piccine, Minister of Labour, Training, Skills Development, and Immigration, noted that the province saw a 30 percent increase in the number of women entering the skilled trades in the last year. Expect more from Ontario on this in the months and years to come. 

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