Skills and Skills Shortages
Canada’s managers and labour leaders are concerned about the issue of skills shortages for good reason; they are experiencing the shortages first hand. At the national level, 44% of private sector managers indicated that they had an occupational shortage within their firm, and an additional 10% anticipated a shortage within the next two years. The responses of labour leaders corroborate these findings, with about one-half saying that their members report current shortages in the organizations where they work.
Within the private sector, trades occupations, production workers, general labourers, front-line supervisors and technicians were frequently cited by both groups as being in shortage. Public sector managers and labour leaders most commonly pointed to professionals, technicians and trades as the groups in shortage.
Viewpoints respondents in Canada’s western provinces were more likely to report occupational shortages than respondents in Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces. Private sector managers in Alberta were most likely to report a current occupational shortage (60%).
Filling occupational shortages is important, but so too is ensuring that the existing workforce has the skills it needs. Leadership and management skills, communication skills, problem solving skills, and interpersonal and teamwork skills were consistently cited as needing "much improvement".
Literacy skills of employees were least likely to be seen as needing improvement. This finding points to a potentially serious "disconnect" on the issue of literacy, as one in four employed Canadians between the ages of 16 and 65 has average literacy scores below the desired threshold for coping with the rapidly changing skills demands of a knowledge-based economy and society. Increasing awareness and understanding of literacy issues among Canada’s business and labour communities is essential if there is to be real progress made in addressing workforce literacy requirements. Failure to do so could mean that many workplaces and individual workers will face a potential major impediment to training and skills upgrading.
Although there are nearly three million workers within 10 years of the median retirement age, a significant share of managers report that their organizations are not actively addressing the question of how they will replace workers who retire. Many organizations, especially in the private sector, are likely to find themselves inadequately prepared to effectively deal with the retirement and replacement situations they face.
Employers and labour leaders also identified a number of barriers they expect to face in trying to meet their future skills requirements. Both groups expect that there will be difficulties increasing compensation levels in order to attract and retain workers, and that competition from other employers for qualified workers will be a serious problem.
The Viewpoints Survey findings suggest that many labour leaders are sceptical about management’s commitment to meeting skills needs, and they are critical about management’s ability to effectively plan for the skills that will be required. Labour sees these as serious problems that will hamper our ability to meet future skills requirements.
One out of every five managers surveyed felt their organization would have difficulties meeting skills requirements because training costs are too high. In fact, many of the managers surveyed, particularly in smaller business, indicated that their firms are without training plans and budgets to guide and assist with their business objectives.