Shortage of skilled workers could jeopardize Canada’s economic future

posted on June 26, 2014

By HR Reporter | Link to Article

By HR Reporter | Link to Article

A shortage of skilled workers is the biggest challenge many Canadian businesses face today, Employment Minister Jason Kenney told a skills summit Wednesday, warning it could also jeopardize Canada’s economic development in the future.

The problem would continue to grow as the population ages, Kenney said at the one-day conference, which brought together stakeholders to discuss the labour market, employee training and those under-represented in the labour force.

Currently, 30 per cent of the skilled trade workers in Canada are baby boomers, Kenney said, adding that they will soon retire.

“They are going to take with them a lifetime of knowledge and skill,” he said.

It’s necessary that an “informed, national discussion” take place about the condition of Canada’s labour market, in order to address future skills gaps, Kenney said.

“We can acknowledge that we have inadequate labour market information and we need to do a fundamentally better job of getting granular information by region and industry,” he said.

Skilled workers shortages are looming in specific sectors, he added, but it’s not a market-wide issue. The construction, mining and petroleum sectors are examples of industries that will face serious shortages of skilled workers over the next decade, he said.

Skills Canada, a group that promotes careers in skilled trades and technologies to Canadian youth, has estimated that one-million skilled trade workers will be needed by 2020, Kenney pointed out.

“We know we have these huge investments and opportunities, particularly in a huge swath of northern Canada, through the massive multibillion-dollar investments in the extractive industries that will require tens if not hundreds of thousands of skilled workers who are not currently available,” Kenney said.

The summit came less than a week after the government announced major changes to the controversial temporary foreign workers program, which include a cap on the number of foreign workers companies can hire, stiffer penalties for businesses found to be violating the new rules and on-site audits and inspections to guard against abuses.

As Kenney began to speak at a news conference wrapping up the summit, he was interrupted by two protesters who expressed anger over the changes.

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