Skilled Trades Ontario is governed and managed by a Board of Directors and a Chief Executive Officer/Registrar, per the Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades Act, 2021.
The Board of Directors consists of up to11 members appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. The Board is responsible for governance, which includes setting strategic priorities and overseeing the achievement of organizational objectives.
The Chief Executive Officer/Registrar is also appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development and is responsible for the operations of Skilled Trades Ontario.
Chief Executive Officer/Registrar
Melissa Young, Chief Executive Officer and Registrar, is a results-oriented, bilingual change leader who has over 20 years of experience in workforce development and the skilled trades. Her work focused on promoting the trades, harmonizing apprenticeships, developing partnerships with First Nations communities, Indigenous groups, labour and management, and influencing the national landscape for apprenticeship.
Prior to leading Skilled Trades Ontario, Melissa was the Executive Director of the National Electrical Trade Council (NETCO), an alliance of the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to promote national Red Seal standards and safety in electrical skills training. Between 2000 and 2009, Melissa was the Executive Director of the Carpenters Training Centre of New Brunswick, where under her leadership the training institute grew by more than ten-fold.
Melissa has served as past Chair of the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship’s Communication and Promotion Committee and Board member of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum. She was also appointed to the Government of Ontario’s Skilled Trades Panel which consulted extensively and produced a report that informed the development of the Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades Act, 2021, the landmark legislation which modernized Ontario’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system.
Board of Directors
Michael Sherrard, Chair, is Managing Partner of Sherrard Kuzz LLP, an employment and labour law firm. He is one of Canada’s leading employment and labour lawyers, recognized by Chambers Global®, Who’s Who Legal® (Global Elite Thought Leader & Most Highly Regarded), Legal 500®, Best Lawyers® and Lexpert®. He is former Chair of the National Labour and Employment Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association, and the Labour and Employment Law Section of the Ontario Bar Association.
Acclaimed for his broad range of expertise, strategic excellence, and ability to identify and broker agreement in the most difficult of circumstances, Michael is the recipient of several awards including the Construction Institute of Canada’s Chancellor’s Award of Excellence and University of New Brunswick Alumni Award of Distinction. He is dedicated to his community, serving as Director on Skills Ontario’s Board, Secretary Treasurer of Support Ontario Youth, and former Chair of the Yves Landry Foundation which advances technological education and skills training for Canada’s manufacturing and business sectors. In October 2020, the Government of Ontario appointed Michael as Chair of the Skilled Trades Panel.
Michael is bilingual and graduated from the University of New Brunswick with a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Education.
Walid Abou-Hamde took on the role of Chief Executive Officer at the Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA) following a successful year as Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Partnerships at Skilled Trades Ontario. Previously, he served as Director of Stakeholder Relations to Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton, where he was instrumental in the launch of Skilled Trades Ontario.
Walid played a key role in several high-profile government initiatives including generational transformations in Ontario’s higher education and employment services, expansion of natural gas and broadband to many rural communities across the province, and the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also led stakeholder engagement for Minister McNaughton where he co-developed and executed consultations on the Market Sounding Initiative, a process which led to significant changes to Ontario’s P3 procurement model for delivering infrastructure projects on time and on budget.
Walid has acquired a versatile skill set through direct engagement with C-suite executives, Cabinet Ministers and senior public officials, and has a proven track record in public and private sector executive management and strategic advisory.
Walid earned his Honours Bachelor of Applied Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of Ottawa and a Postgraduate Certificate in Public Relations from Humber College.
James Barry is the Executive Secretary Treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Construction Council of Ontario (IBEW CCO). He is an active and passionate advocate for the skilled trades and occupational safety for more than 25 years, including his time on the Ontario-Québec Bilateral Construction Labour Mobility Committee for over a decade.
After many years spent on the tools, James became active in his local union, rising through the ranks between 1996 to 2015, and served five uncontested terms as Business Manager and Financial Secretary of IBEW Local 586 in Ottawa representing over 1,700 workers and overseeing all operations, including bargaining with over 200 signatory electrical contractors, and trusteeship of the pension and benefits fund. Since 2012, James has served as President of the IBEW CCO, and shortly after was elected and has continued to serve as the Executive Chair and Secretary Treasurer of the IBEW CCO, made up of 11 local unions and 18,000 members across the province. He also previously served in various capacities on the College of Trades.
James studied Business Management at Algonquin College and is certified as 309A Electrician in Construction and Maintenance. He is the proud father of four children, Sarah, Thomas, Clare and Patrick.
John Breslin is the Skilled Trades National Director for Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union representing over 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy, including more than 50,000 skilled trades workers and apprentices across Canada working in over 20 sectors.
He leads several initiatives in concert with Presidents of Unifor locals in various sectors including automotive assembly and parts, rail, mining, aerospace, hospitality and gaming, education, shipbuilding, fisheries, forestry, energy, and communications. He provides support to members, bargaining committees and national representatives regarding skilled trades related issues. John is a strong supporter of the “Women in Skilled Trades Program” that helps to promote women and underrepresented groups to have access to a career in skilled trades. He works with all levels of the federal and provincial governments, stakeholders and educational institutions to advance the profile of skilled trades across Canada. John worked at the Chrysler (now Stellantis) assembly plant in Brampton and served in various capacities including Skilled Trades Chair, and participated in the mergers of Daimler and Chrysler, and Fiat Chrysler.
John began his apprenticeship as a mechanical fitter with the British Steel Corporation in Scotland and became certified as an industrial mechanic millwright after immigrating to Canada. He is a Director on the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum’s Board and is a member of the Conference Board of Canada’s Experiential Learning Research Advisory Board.
Michael Gallardo is the President & CEO of Merit OpenShop Contractors Association of Ontario and brings expertise in areas such as trade advocacy, safety training, workforce and leadership development, employer group benefits, contract/collective bargaining agreement expertise, and labour relations. He is a leading voice for non-union construction contractors across Ontario.
Michael brings over 20 years of industry experience, including his time at the Pipeline Contractors Association of Canada where he supported contract management and collective bargaining with unionized contractors, developed construction safety videos, management-level leadership courses for field-level personnel, business seminars, advocacy and government relations. He also worked for the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association, liaising with member dealers of the Industry Relations and Legal Action Committees, automotive manufacturers and associations’ executives to advance equitable Dealer Sales and Service Agreements, and championed the National Dealer Arbitration program. He developed an effective dealer council program to enhance clear communications between dealer councils and manufacturers and played a critical role in supporting new car dealer principals for General Motors during the 2009 restructuring.
Michael holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto and also speaks Spanish.
Ronald Kelusky was Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer from 2018 to 2021. As CPO, he renewed the province’s occupational health and safety system driven by the mission that “Prevention Works.” He worked closely with industry, labour, the WSIB, public and privately funded training providers to advance a safer workforce, and spearheaded the Ontario Government’s development of hundreds of health and safety guidelines during the outbreak of the COVID-19 outbreak, and the rapid deployment of antigen testing for construction sites, both of which were unanimously endorsed by employers and trade unions.
His decades of experience span the public, broader public, not for profit and private sectors. Ron was CEO of Public Services Health and Safety which is responsible for providing safety consulting and training for government, municipalities, the healthcare and education sectors. Prior to that, he was the Director General of the Canadian Red Cross where he was responsible for all programing in Ontario including health services, disaster management, safety and other programs as well as the National Lead for all health services in Canada. He also served as President of GesturTek, a health technology start-up, and Chief / General Manager of the City of Toronto’s Paramedic Services where he managed 1,200 staff and $120 million budget.
Ron holds a Master of Business Administration from Athabasca University and is a Certified Municipal Manager CMM III.
Brad Nicpon is a partner in the Toronto office of McCarthy Tétrault. His practice focuses on infrastructure, construction, energy, project development and public-private partnerships (P3s). He also advises on real property development and the purchase and sale of infrastructure and real property assets.
Brad has advised public- and private-sector clients in Ontario and around the world (including Asia, the Middle East, the US, the UK and Europe) in respect of the construction, financing, operation and maintenance of a variety of infrastructure projects. These include energy generation projects, energy transmission projects, hospitals, law enforcement facilities, sporting event facilities, entertainment venues and transit/transportation projects.
Brad has run seminars and teaching modules on infrastructure and project development in Toronto and globally. He has volunteered on industry panels, judged student infrastructure business case presentations at the Schulich School of Business and volunteered as a facilitator for the Sustainable Infrastructure Fellowship Program of the Investor Leadership Network.
Brad received an LL.B. from Osgoode Hall Law School in 2007, an M.Sc. in Political Theory from the London School of Economics in 2004 and a B.Sc. (Hons) in Genetics and Political Science from the University of Western Ontario in 2003. He qualified as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Province of Ontario in 2008, and as a Solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales in 2016.
Brad grew up in rural Southwestern Ontario, and currently lives in Toronto.
Jason Ottey is the Director of Government Relations and Communications for Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 183 where he provides direction, advocacy and strategic advice on construction-related issues at all three levels of government. LiUNA represents workers in construction, waste management, show service, and healthcare with more 100,000 members in Canada.
Prior to joining LiUNA Local 183, Jason was the Director of Research and Policy for Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON), where he represented the interests of single and multi-family residential builders across the Greater Toronto Area. He was the Managing Director of Ontario Residential Council of Construction Associations and was appointed Executive Director of the Durham Residential Construction Labour Bureau. He previously played a leadership role in the creation of the Construction Employers Coalition for the WSIB & Workplace Health Safety where he was appointed Chair. He also served as Chair of the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association Residential Sector Labour Management Committee.
Jason holds a Master of Arts from McMaster University and Master of Industrial Relations from the University of Toronto.
Karen Renkema-Millar is Ontario Vice President of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA), the voice of progressive unionized employers in Canada’s construction industry whose member companies employ more than 25,000 skilled construction workers across Canada. PCA provides advocacy, labour-management advice, networking opportunities, and organizational services to its members.
Karen has spent more than 15 years advocating for employers in the construction industry on issues ranging from skills training and labour force development to procurement, labour relations, and health & safety. She served as an inaugural member of then-Minister Chris Bentley’s Apprenticeship Committee in 2007, an advisor on Buildforce Canada stakeholder committees, and Chair of the Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance (OSTA), an association made up of 37 organizations – including the Ontario General Contractors Association, Ontario Home Builders’ Association, Ontario Hair Stylists Association, and Trillium Automobile Dealers Association – who employ over 100,000 skilled tradespeople.
Karen has also worked with the Council of Ontario Construction Associations and the Ontario Road Builders’ Association. Throughout her career, she has been a passionate advocate for advancing careers in the skilled trades. She also spends time in her local community, volunteering on school and community initiatives.
Karen holds a Bachelor of Arts from Calvin University.
Christine Wellenreiter, CM, ICD.D, is Director of Strategy & Market Support for Canada Life’s group retirement area and member of Great-West Lifeco’s Sustainable Investment Council. She has over 20 years of investment and marketing experience with a focus on responsible investing, bringing competitive products to market for group, retail, and institutional wealth and asset management organizations.
Prior to her role with Canada Life, Christine held the position of Vice President of Marketing & Communications for GLC Asset Management Group Ltd., where her capital market insights appeared in nationally distributed pieces for over a decade. Her business acumen and depth of experiences in strategic marketing, branding, and digital strategy adoption are reflected in her straightforward communication style and execution effectiveness. Some notable projects include the launch of Canada’s first sustainable target date funds for the group retirement marketplace, leading the amalgamation rebranding strategy of GLC Asset Management, and developing and executing on commitments to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment.
She is deeply rooted in her community, having served as a former provincially appointed member of the London Police Services Board, Chair of the Thames Valley Children’s Centre Board, member of Program Advisory Councils for the Lawrence Kinlin School of Business, and inaugural co-chair of Canada Life’s Young Professionals Employee Resource Group.
Christine is bilingual, earned her Chartered Marketer and ICD.D (Institute of Corporate Directors) designations, Bachelor of Arts and Certificat de Français pratique from Western University.