Much debate abounds over the looming skills shortage in Canada when in truth it has already arrived.
Earlier this year, the Petroleum and Human Resources Council forecast a shortage of around 9,500 jobs in the Canadian oil and gas industry alone by 2015. Areas specifically affected were quoted as British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan but the rest of Canada is not immune to this shortage, nor is it limited to the oil and gas industry.
The latest Global Work Monitor issued in early October, reports that 66% of Canadian employers experience difficulty in recruiting suitable candidates for certain jobs and 58% struggle to find qualified staff. 55% also anticipated a shortage of skilled workers over the next three years.
Skilled engineers were reported as sparse in areas such as Greater Toronto, Montreal and Calgary while a shortage of machinists, industrial mechanics, welders, supervisors and electro-mechanics was reported inQuebec.
What has caused the skills shortage?
A combination of factors has caused the skills shortage but the predominant cause is the imminent retirement of the ‘baby boomer’ generation who are now reaching 65 years of age.
Additional contributing factors include the increasing consumer demands of an expanding global population putting pressure on natural resources.Canadain particular is a resource rich nation.
According to The Mining Industry Human Resources Council, the Canadian mining industry alone faces a shortage of 140,000 skilled workers by 2021. Furthermore this forecast is based on current levels of production only. The numbers are poised to increase significantly if the continued investment level continues.
To put this in perspective, minerals claims in British Columbia reached record levels in the past year. The effect of these claims will ultimately result in demand for additional workers in skilled trades roles such as engineers, equipment operators, heavy equipment mechanics and construction jobs.
What Can Be Done to Resolve the Problem?
A variety of solutions have been suggested to assist with the skills shortage including:-
- Attract more women into traditionally male dominated industries with flexible working hours particularly for seasonal or project roles such as FIFO jobs.
- Encourage collaboration between employers and post-secondary educational organizations to increase the level and variety of skills available among skilled trade workers.
- Foster relationships between employers and the indigenous people ofCanadato explore untapped potential skills markets through training and education.
- Enhanced incentives for foreign workers to move toCanada, either through permanent or temporary immigration. In July 2012 the Temporary Foreign Workers program was expanded to allow employers to recruit highly skilled foreign workers when Canadian workers are not available.
- Encourage interprovincial migration of Canadian residents.
Adverse Effects on Canada’s Economy
While solutions are being explored, the fact is the shortage of skilled workers in trades from oil and gas through to logistics, transportation and food manufacturing adversely affects Canada’s ability to compete in the global economy. Furthermore the challenges are unlikely to dissipate in the foreseeable future.
While the skills shortage cannot be averted, certain steps can be taken to ameliorate its potential impact. The Canadian government together with educational institutions, employers and reputable, specialist staffing vendors must continue to work together for economic prosperity.