HUMA Committee Report
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Mr. Ed Komarnicki
Dear Mr. Komarnicki:
I am pleased to respond, on behalf of the Government of Canada, to the Report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities entitled, Labour and Skills Shortages in Canada: Addressing Current and Future Challenges. I would like to offer my sincere thanks to the Committee members for the considerable time and effort that they put into this study, including meeting with Canadians across the country to hear their perspectives on Canada’s labour and skills challenges. I would also like to thank the many witnesses who appeared before the Committee, and whose testimonies contributed greatly to the Report’s valuable observations.
Ensuring that Canada has the skills and labour force it needs now and in the future is one of the greatest socio-economic challenges facing the country. A lack of workers with the right skills means lost business opportunities for firms, lost productivity for Canada, and lost employment opportunities for Canadians. A workforce with the skills that meet the needs of the economy is vital for the prosperity of Canada and the personal financial security of Canadians. The Government of Canada is firmly committed to helping to address this challenge and to supporting the creation of the best educated, most skilled, and most flexible workforce in the world.
Employers in Canada are voicing their concern about the increasing difficulty in finding workers with the skills they need. Many businesses cite labour and skills shortages as the greatest constraint they face to continued growth and competitiveness. At the same time, many Canadians continue to experience unemployment. Some have been affected by significant restructuring in industries such as manufacturing, while others may feel that their skills no longer equip them for a changing economy. Recent graduates can face uncertainty about whether there will be jobs to match their chosen fields of study. The key to addressing these challenges is through continued efforts to ensure that Canadians have the skills most needed by employers.
The Government agrees with the Report’s finding that students, graduates, job-seekers and employers all need relevant, timely and easily accessible information in order to make good learning and labour market decisions. Improved learning and labour market information (LMI) is critical to minimizing skills mismatches and helping labour markets function more efficiently. LMI can lead to better education and training investments and improved job outcomes for Canadian job seekers and immigrants, and help youth and students make better learning and career choices. It also helps employers develop human resource strategies and better connect with qualified job seekers. The Government continues to work with its partners to explore how LMI can be enhanced to keep up with both the increasing expectations of users and the expanding opportunities that result from advances in technology.
While Canada has one of the world’s best educated workforces, education and training must be more responsive to the changing skills requirements of jobs. Canada needs to better meet the growing demand for skills in areas such as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), information and communication technologies (ICTs), and health. Not only does Canada need sufficient numbers of graduates in high demand fields, graduates must also acquire the right mix of skills to be successful, such as technical skills combined with business skills or practical experience. In addition, Canada needs more certified and mobile skilled trades professionals to support economic growth. The Government continues to work with provinces, territories and employers to support apprentices through to certification. At the same time, an increasing share of all jobs, including many occupations that were once considered low-skilled, – now require employees to have strong literacy, numeracy and other essential skills, including digital skills, in order to do their job well.
Another important way to address Canada’s future labour and skills challenges will be to increase the labour force participation and employment of Canadians who are under-represented in the labour market. Aboriginal people, as a young and rapidly growing population, are making an important contribution to the Canadian economy. However, improving the education and skills of Aboriginal people will be key to ensuring that they can reach their full potential in the labour force.
Persons with disabilities represent a large pool of talent that can help fill Canada’s labour and skill gaps, but is too often overlooked. The recent business-led Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities [http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/consultations/panel/index.shtml] found that there is a proven business case for hiring and retaining persons with disabilities: accommodation costs are often low, returns on investments are high, and an inclusive workforce has an innovation advantage. As well, older workers, with their accumulated skills and experience, play an important role in our economy. As Canada’s workforce ages, it will become increasingly important to support older workers who wish to continue their careers so that they may contribute their skills to support Canada’s long-term prosperity.
With slowing labour force growth, immigration is also an important way that Canada can address skills and labour gaps. Designing an immigration system that attracts the best applicants with the skills to meet Canada’s labour market needs has been a priority for the Government since 2006. The Government has acted on this priority by transforming Canada’s suite of immigration programs and policies. The Government of Canada is planning to continue to enhance its economic immigration programs by developing a “just-in-time” system that will recruit people with the right skills to meet Canada’s labour market needs, and fast track their immigration. The Government is also reviewing the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to ensure that more employers look to hire Canadians or permanent residents before hiring temporary foreign workers.
As the Report recognizes, these are complex issues, requiring coordinated action on a number of fronts. The Government of Canada is helping to build a skilled and flexible workforce through action in a range of areas including support for post-secondary education and training, research and development, labour mobility, labour market information, immigration, foreign credential recognition, attracting international talent, sectoral investment strategies, pensions, and labour regulations.
However, responsibility for Canada’s labour market success is broadly shared. Employers, provinces and territories, learning institutions, community organizations and individuals have key roles to play in ensuring Canada’s continued success. Meeting the skills challenges of the future will require not only concerted action, but also innovative thinking, approaches, and partnerships.
By working collaboratively – employers, industry and government alike – we can together ensure that our workforce will enable Canada’s continued competitiveness and long-term prosperity.
The Hon. Diane Finley, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development