At a recent skills summit focusing on the Canadian labour market, Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney warned of an impending skills shortage in Canada.
The June stakeholder meeting in Toronto, Ontario, focused on the Canadian labour market, skilled labour in Canada, skills training for employees, and underrepresented groups in the labour market.
Minister Kenney cautioned attendees about the climate for skilled labour in Canada and the future of skilled workers. Kenney expects a shortage of skilled workers to be one of Canada’s key challenges in the coming years, and an informed national discussion about Canada’s labour market will be necessary in order to address the future gap in skilled labour. It is important to note that the shortage of skilled workers is not expected to be a market-wide issue, but focused on particular industries, including the construction, mining, and petroleum sectors.
The decline in the number of skilled workers in Canada expected in the coming years is partially a result of the demographics in that industry. Currently, approximately 30% of the skilled trade workers in Canada are baby boomers, set to retire in the near future, and young Canadians are not taking up skilled trades at a rate that would maintain the size of the workforce. As a result, Skills Canada believes that a total of one million skilled workers with be needed in Canada by 2020.
One solution to this skilled labour shortage being discussed is increased opportunities for young people in Canada to take up careers in the trades. This would not only benefit the Canadian labour market, but it would also benefit Canadian youth, who are the most educated in the developed world but have a 13.4% unemployment rate. Decreasing the skilled labour shortage through youth will require both encouraging young people to pursue skilled trades as a career and destigmatizing the trades. Further harmonization of Canada’s apprenticeship regime is another method to make entering the trades more accessible for youth.
It is more likely that this shortage will be combated through immigration. In the coming year, the government will need to focus on making Canada more attractive on the international stage. Currently, the Canadian government offers the Federal Skilled Worker and Federal Skilled Trades programs, both of which provide an avenue for skilled foreign nationals to come to Canada and participate in the Canadian labour force. The new Express Entry program, being introduced in January of 2015, will likely contribute to this goal of bringing in more foreign skilled workers and tradespeople to Canada as well. Express Entry is a fast-tracked immigration option that will operate through matching the skills of prospective immigrants to Canadian employers unable to hire skilled employees in Canada.
Kenney warned that a shortage of skilled workers would jeapordize Canada’s economic development in the future, making immigration in these industries a necessity.
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