Perceptions of gatekeepers play a critical role in career decisions for youth. According to an attitudinal survey conducted by Skills Canada, parents are the number one influencer for students making career decisions, while teachers and peers also influence youth in their career decisions. These influencers are unlikely to encourage youth to choose a career path in the skilled trades.
According to this attitudinal survey, youth are unaware of the opportunities in the skilled trades and technologies and apprenticeship programs. They are more likely to choose university over trade school or college because university is thought to offer better career opportunities and be more challenging. Youth want jobs that give personal satisfaction, respect, and security, and they and their influencers perceive skilled trades as not being lucrative, challenging, interesting, or fun.
It is evident from the survey that young people make career decisions based on what their parents, teachers, and peers advise; however, these influencers are not necessarily giving accurate information about skilled trades. Skilled trades can be exciting, secure jobs with great earning potential and opportunities for advancement. Misperceptions need to be corrected and careers requiring industrial skills need to be promoted to close the skills gap.
Research shows that a skills gap is looming in the manufacturing sector in Newfoundland and Labrador, education infrastructure required to bridge the gap is limited, an inadequate match between labour market demand and supply exists, and gatekeepers need to be educated on the real opportunities in the manufacturing and industrial sectors. The skills gap is also more readily apparent in rural areas of the province as the competition for its labour pool is provincial, national, and international. Skills are a critical resource for a healthy economy, but the people holding those skills are also essential to maintain our community and social networks.
This is a complex issue – one not easy to manage given how quickly economies and sectors can change, the personal preferences of students, and the multitude of influences that affect an individual’s decision to pursue a specific career path. Given the demographic trends, though, the province must carefully manage this critical resource if it is to maintain economic growth and care must be imposed not to create an overreaction resulting in another large pendulum swing.
Newfoundland and Labrador needs to address industrial skills issues. Various initiatives are required to prepare the province for future human resource needs, and it is essential that these be placed high on the political agenda to give the issue the attention required for its success. Initiatives must include actions to improve infrastructure, perception, labour force capacity, and company capability.