June 25, 2014 – National Post – article by Clare Clancy, Canadian Press
TORONTO — A shortage of skilled workers will be one of Canada’s greatest future economic challenges, Employment Minister Jason Kenney told a skills summit Wednesday.
The conference held in Toronto brought together stakeholders to discuss the labour market, employee training and those under-represented in the labour force.
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. “What we ought to do is ensure that young people make fully informed decisions that are unencumbered by stigmas attached to skilled work,” says Jason Kenney.
“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.
Skills 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 has estimated that one million skilled trade workers will be needed by 2020, Kenney pointed out.
In 2012, a McKinsey Global Institute report estimated that by 2020, the global economy could see 90 to 95 million more low-skill workers than employers will need, Cryne said.
Kenney noted that skills shortages are propelled by the inability to attract youth into the trades.
Countrywide, there are 13 different apprenticeship programs with specific rules and requirements, he said.“Greater harmonization of that regime would make it easier for young apprentices to complete their training and give them the mobility to go where the jobs are,” Kenney said.
He added that stakeholders need to de-stigmatize the trades and encourage young workers to enter skilled vocations.
The minister cited countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom as places where apprenticeship programs offer youth better employment options, calling the programs “radically better.”
He said the Canadian debate over apprenticeship programs has led to a mischaracterization of certain European systems, whereby youth are streamlined into trades from a young age. But he said the programs have now become more “permeable.”
In Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Denmark, Kenney said, about two-thirds of young high school students at the age of 16 enrol in paid apprenticeship programs and graduate at 19 “unencumbered by debt.”
“(They are) graduating with a certificate that is considered to have the same social and economic value as a university degree,” he said.
Young Canadians present a paradox, said Kenney. They are among the most educated in the developed world, but have an unemployment rate of 13.4%, nearly double the general unemployment rate. “It’s unacceptable,” he said.