Barrier I: Canada’s skills crisis
Troy Media – Editor’s note: Over the past year, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has consulted its members – local chambers of commerce, large companies and small businesses – to identify the key barriers hindering our competitiveness. The following series, to run over the next 11 days, will tackle the solutions.
Canada is developing a desperate labour shortage, and resolving it is key to the continued success of Canadian businesses and the economy.
Canada’s growth and prosperity will depend on our ability to be more innovative and globally competitive. Better trained workers are essential to improving Canada’s productivity. A more highly skilled workforce will produce value-added goods and services and the new technologies that can maximize productivity and improve the quality of life for all Canadians.
Over the past 40 years, Canada’s economy has been driven by labour-market growth, but two huge trends are affecting the Canadian labour market. First: Canada’s aging population is resulting in “boomers” leaving their jobs. And, second, the nature of Canada’s jobs continues to become more specialized which, in turn, demands more educated and skilled workers.
As a result of these factors, many companies and industry sectors already face shortages of the skilled people they need to remain competitive and grow.
Canada is a middle performer in providing access to undergraduate education and also trails many other nations in the number of graduate degrees awarded. The country falls short in addressing the current and future skills needs of the workplace.
Fixing Canada’s skilled labour shortage involves both domestic skills development and access to skilled foreign workers. Consequently, a number of issues will need to be explored, including:
- Employee skills upgrading for small-and medium-sized businesses;
- Integration services for immigrants;
- Connecting education and employment;
- Targeting urgently in-demand occupations;
- Aboriginal workforce development;
- Job placement programs; and,
- Attracting and keeping foreign workers.
The way forward
More people with advanced skills are needed for Canada to compete and prosper in a global, knowledge-based economy. Because both our society and the economy will benefit from a highly educated workforce, access to skilled labour is key to Canada’s future economic success.
As the labour market tightens, Canadian businesses must view every person as an opportunity to contribute to the workforce. Accordingly, Canada’s labour force participation can be increased by tapping underutilized segments of the population such as older workers, youth, Aboriginal peoples and the disabled as well as seeking the skills of foreign workers.
Tomorrow: Barrier II: Keeping Canadians Working/Helping federally regulated businesses to compete