How To Solve The Skills Gap In Canada

1. SKILLS GAP

1.1 Introduction

The Skills Gap is a term commonly used to outline the gap between the skills which employers require for a position and the skills which employees offer. In Canada, the Skills Gap exists at varying levels of severity for the different sectors, but it is especially pronounced in the industrial and technological sectors. Looking back a few years, as part of social guidance, parental guidance, career education and counselling process available to secondary and post-secondary students, many students were advised to pursue the education which they envisioned would be their passion and which would fulfill their dreams. Students were advised, that pursuing one’s own passion, and realizing that in terms of a completion of a post-secondary credential in their area of interest, would be a sufficient and adequate condition for employment further on in life. This desire to live a dream, was a dream. Consequent to these recommendations, many youths decided to pursue educational programs that were not in sync with the needs of the industrial and technological economy. If out of about 2 million yearly post-secondary enrolments, approximately 1 million is humanities/social/public administration, that comes at a cost. That’s 1 million projects managers, business analysts, chartered insurance professionals, information systems professionals, miners, medical doctors, carpenters other professionals that society doesn’t get. It is a common narrative that Universities don’t create the right kind of graduate, but the responsibility to solve the skills gap goes beyond University. For example, workers are also said to be at fault for not keeping up with technological advances via self-study after University/College. When it comes to enterprise and business, the organizations are claimed to not be investing into their workers, and thus, are not bearing sufficient costs associated with the development of the labour force. As for government, what are the claims made about it?

The federal and provincial governments spend a lot of public resources funding the secondary and post-secondary educational systems; they provide student loans and even cancel student loans from time to time. Generally, a significant amount of tax payer resources are spent to provide loans on programs which were selected not based upon research studies of labour force requirements and needs, but on the aspirations and dreams of 17 year olds and 18 year olds. Further, businesses are often not looking to hire graduates of the programs that are likely to be selected by youth. The question is, should we subsidize youth towards achieving credentials which are not in demand within the labour market. Subsidizing youth has only seemed to exacerbate the problem of creating an oversupply of labour in certain areas while creating an undersupply in critical technological areas. Instead of heavy government involvement, government could step back to allow the students to only focus on the 21st century skills requirements of employers. Instead of informing youth that work revolves around the academic degree, perhaps promoting the idea that society actually revolves around skills, could help prepare students with a better idea of the skills landscape and their own ability to offer skills within the labour marketplace. Though employers carry the narrative of the “degree is everything”, they will actually hire for “skills based reasons”. Businesses are looking for niche skills such as specialized skills in software engineering, web design, insurance sales, project management, graphic design, trades, manufacturing, financial planning, management consulting, investment management, chartered accounting, financial analysts, and so forth. Many of these type of professions are gained through alternative educational pathways to University or College. They are gained through private business sponsorships, mentorships, apprenticeships, work experience proof given to a professional association and through private institutions. The idea that education in university is what the job market needs is not always the case. Shouldn’t we have grants and loans also for the alternative educational pathway described, a pathway which industry agrees to is the standard method of gaining professional status within an industry. Should we as a nation expend all financial resources on traditional post-secondary, or should we balance out the expenditures to encompass the entire possible education and innovation ecosystem.

Lastly, the skills gap has been sold to the public as an issue of too few skills available with workers pertaining to the needs of employers. The issue could also be explained from the perspective of the skills being only accessible and attainable in a work setting, and since the employers don’t generally train or develop those skills internally for the workforce, then the responsibility for employee training rests on the shoulders of employers. Skills development is not an independent process between worker and employer, it always requires an employer to enable a worker to achieve full skills development. Employers need to acknowledge this responsibility. Bridging the skills gap will require a re-assessment of what the role of the government should be in the education economy, the proper contribution of business towards worker development, and the alignment of youth towards market relevant professional training programs.

So what is the educational and career situation Canada and how can the Skills Gap be solved? In this comprehensive report “How To Solve The Skills Gap in Canada” we answer this important topic.

1.2 Table of Contents

1. SKILLS GAP
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Table Of Contents
1.3 The Skills Shortage In Canada
1.4 Job Vacancies Persist
1.5 Automation Is On Its Way
1.6 Demographic Cliff Is Also On Its Way

2. EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS
2.1 More And More Post-Secondary Achievement
2.2 Educational Enrolments Not Aligned To Labour Force Needs
2.3 Labour Market Information Is Required
2.4 Results Not As Advertised
2.5 Legacy Curriculum/Laboratory Set-Ups Lag Industry
2.6 Traditional Post-Secondary Or The Alternatives
2.7 Adopting The Complete Educational Pathway
2.8 Technical College Diploma’s and Job Training Are Not Enough

3. BUSINESS ORGANIZATIONS
3.1 Business Are Investing Less Into Workers
3.2 Businesses Are Not Providing Sufficient Corporate Training
3.3 Rapid Training Can Re-Skill Workers Quickly, But Do Not Create Determined Workers
3.4 The Unexpected Value of Coding Boot Camps

4. GOVERNMENT
4.1 Government Should Research And Provide Detailed Labour Market Information (LMI)

5. EVERYONE
5.1 National Web Strategy

6. 25 MORE SOLUTIONS

7. CONCLUSION

1.3 The Skills Shortage In Canada

Some students, workers, educators, associations and employers are noticing that there appears to be signs of a skills gap within certain locations and within certain professions in Canada. A skills gap refers to the type of skills workers in the labour force have and the type of skills that are in demand. Some have proposed the idea that in many circumstances, the educational system is taking too long of a time to prepare individuals for work. In addition, the nature of the preparation often involves preparing people with skills not applicable to the work that is in demand. Though the educational system is turning out skilled graduates, there are 21st century industries that are undergoing high speed and radical technological change, and these industries do not have workers readily prepared to contribute in the right niche and at the right level of sophistication. New type of jobs are being created, but there aren’t enough of the right kind of skills, at the right time and at the right location where they could be utilized.

Employers throughout Canada state that they have had difficulty in finding graduates with valuable work related skills. For example, in Canada, there are trades jobs, oil jobs, gas jobs, engineering jobs, resource industry jobs and computer jobs which are available, but which are also very difficult to staff due to a lack of available persons with experience in these areas. It is unfortunate that these vacancies exist, as they represent work which is high paying and interesting. Many businesses have reported on the high level of difficulty in filling vacant positions that they have made available. For example, a recent CERIC survey found that 70% of Canadian executives reported that finding a skilled employee is difficult. Of the IT leaders surveyed, 46% reported difficulty in filling positions within their company. Overall, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce reported that we may face a 1 million person skilled worker shortage by the end of the decade. Though employers would like to see more graduates in these economically important, goods producing roles, the educational institutions and the labour market have not yet delivered what is necessary.

In regards to the educational institutions, they have responded to criticisms by stating that the purpose of education is not simply a process which one uses as a stepping stone to the first career. Generally, institutions have not altered enrolment rates according to fields which are likely to be most in demand. Instead, educational institutions and educators have called on employers to invest in training for aspiring workers. This type of resistance to change, from both post-secondary institutions and from employers, has left many aspiring workers to face a long, difficult and frustrating journey on their path towards full professional employment.

1.4 Job Vacancies Persist

There is no doubt that vacancies exist within important occupational categories of the Canadian labour market. For example, according to the Help Wanted Survey released by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), there were 399,000 vacant jobs in Canada near the end of 2017. As another example, according to the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), Canada will need to fill about 216,000 technology positions by 2021. And lastly, according to the “Engineering Labour Market in Canada: Projections to 2025” report by Engineers Canada, there won’t be enough experienced young engineers who can competently take over from senior engineers as they retire in the coming years. Resolving these issues should be a key concern for government, as it has a direct impact on Canada’s ability to compete on the global stage.

Despite the large number of vacancies, many employers have a tough time to fill positions within their companies. According to Manpower Group, 58% of organizations with over 250 employees face a shortage of skilled labour and about 41% of employers have a tough time in filling vacant positions. To an aspiring professional who has spent years in learning and training and preparing for a professional role, it must seem confusing that employers would list vacant positions, not fill them, and then complain that it is difficult to find workers. Yet the problem persists. So how did this happen? The first barrier which can throw some new job seekers off, deals with the idea of the “entry level” position. The ‘entry level’ position is not always a beginner position with little technical or creative proficiency required. In fact, many ‘entry level’ positions require intermediate or advanced level of proficiency and experience. In addition, a lot of managers throw a lot of technically complex work at junior employees, thereby increasing the odds of failure. Further, since many companies don’t invest much into formal or informal training for their new workers, workers are not brought up to speed, and the positions go and remain unfilled. These trends are clearly visible in the stats, which show that investment in employees has dropped about 40% in the last 10 to 20 years.

In response to this situation, the government has intervened. The government boosted grant funding to students who sought out post-secondary training. The government also boosted funding to job skills training for the unemployed, self-employed and even the employed workers who aspired to change careers. This training should have made a difference and should have been considered valuable in the eyes of employers. Rather than being flexible in the consideration of skills evaluation as applicable to the positions advertised, many employers have chosen the perspective that they should just “sit and wait for just the right candidate with all the right requirements.”. This “sit and wait approach” rather than picking motivated individuals with the related skills training, and the to train them for the job, has not always panned out. Many businesses ended up struggling to find workers with all of the correct skills and experience metrics. Though the solution was to take someone that’s a little bit more green and willing to adapt themselves to meet all of the requirements in time, the businesses didn’t do this and therefore created a “talent shortage problem” for themselves. To help resolve this issue, government could attempt to promote internal company training programs through tax incentives and credits for businesses which choose to train inexperienced entry level workers.

1.4 Automation Is On Its Way

High profile reports released across Canada have come to the conclusion that automation has the potential to automate between 35% and 45% of jobs in the coming decades. For example, the Human Resources Professional Association (HRPA) and Deloitte recently released a report which stated that anywhere between 35% and 42% of jobs in Canada could be replaced or placed in jeopardy due to automation. In a similar example, the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) came up with a 43.6% figure to represent the percentage of occupations which have a high probability of automation. And yet another study by the McKinsey global management consulting firm has closely corroborated this data, with the estimate of possible job automation near the 45% level. There is little doubt that change is on its way.

Over the last thirty years, workers have received a preview of the kinds of changes which will occur in the workplace. Due to technological revolution and the adoption of automation systems and processes, many workers have had to continually re-skill, update their abilities, and seek out new positions and new employment on an on-going basis. If you take an average officer worker in 1999, they may have been able to secure a high paying administrative position for a governmental organization with only Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint or Word knowledge. Nowadays, this would be insufficient for the vast majority of organizations. You would need a dozen or more skills to have a chance at such a position. In addition, intermediate and advanced level positions have proliferated, while junior positions and internships are harder to find. In fact, many entry-level positions may be advertised as entry level, but they will often feature a lot of very specialized, advanced and high paced work. If so much change has occurred in only 20 years, how much change can we expect will occur in 20 years from now? Many aspiring workers are not adapting fast enough to the world of work already, so what hope is there for the adaptation that will be required to face off against intelligent machines and automated software and hardware processes. Consider what young people have to now deal with in the upcoming decade. They will most likely have to learn a new tool and technique, that likely no one has any experience with, and they will have to learn how to use and apply it every few months.

One way in which a worker can prepare for the automation eventuality, deals with the idea of preparing for the attainment of niche 21st century skills. High level skills are fundamentally very difficult for early generation robots to replicate. By adopting such skills, a worker may end up working along side a robotic system, rather than be replaced by it. Basic skills are much easier for automation systems to replicate than are the more advanced technical and creative skills. By changing skill categories into tough to automate areas, workers can ensure they have a way to contribute to a workplace for a much longer period of time, than they would otherwise be able to. Robotic systems have shown that they are even able to handle complex tasks, such as driving trucks, detecting cancer, building cars and reading medical reports. As a result, while some Canadians will enjoy the job security of a salaried position for an employer and for a long period of time, many Canadians will not have job security in upcoming times. The latter group will have to continually adapt and learn new skills and techniques as they are needed in the workplace.

1.5 Demographic Cliff Is Also On Its Way

It isn’t only the effects of automation that we as a society need to be cognizant and ready for. The other significant factor that worry governments around the world, are the major demographic shifts which are occurring simultaneously across more than fourty countries worldwide. The dependency ratio’s are changing worldwide. Canada is an excellent example of what is happening to so many countries worldwide. Within only 25 years, approximately two thirds of Canada’s population will consist individuals which are either too young or too old to work. Employers will have to deal with the fact that the youth which enter the workforce will not have equivalent experience to the seniors which leave the workforce. As individuals retire, they take with them a lifetime of relevant industrial experience. In contrast, the skills which youth bring are often advanced digital skills, not specialized work related skills such as those needed in manufacturing or resource extraction.

2. EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

2.1 More And More Post-Secondary Achievement

The question we should be asking ourselves. If employers report a difficulty in recruiting talent for their work projects, and also if the skills training individuals are pursuing are not the metric which employers are using as part of the hiring process, than do we really need an even higher level of overall post secondary attainment than we already have today? Today, about 54% of Canadians of working age have either a University or College qualification. In addition to this, 12% have trades qualifications and others have private industry certifications or partial course work. If the majority of individuals have this training, and are available for work, but many employers do not wish to fill their positions with some post-secondary graduates, than would increasing the proportion of overall levels of post-secondary education improve the situation?

To complement people’s educational background, it is essential to provide a type of formal or informal training that they don’t already have. Loans and grants could be provided to help prop up the alternatives to traditional post-secondary. For example, there are short-term, specialized, private training programs which are staffed by industry professionals rather than the post secondary system that is staffed by lifelong teachers. The short term “skills training programs” teach the niche skills which are similar to the skills used in the workplace. The nature of these rapid fire boot camp style programs allows them to be used to train a lot of students fast. This may satisfy the needs of industry to quickly solve the skills gap.

2.2 Educational Enrolments Not Aligned To Labour Force Needs

One of the principle problems which students face in their career progression deals with the lack of alignment between their educational training and the needs of employers. Many students in University or College pursue programs which are not directly connected with the potential future employment opportunities. For example, rather than pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM), many graduates pursue arts degrees such English or Philosophy. In 2013, Statistics Canada reported that registrations in humanities were 358,689, registrations in education were 102,810, and registrations in the social science/law were 249,792. In short, over 700,000 students registered and pursued arts degrees. In contrast, registrations in math/computer science were 57,894, registrations in engineering and technology were 184,500, and registrations in science and technology were 98,811. There were more registrations in the lower demand fields related to the arts, than there were in the higher demand fields related to science, engineering, technology and mathematics.

Part of the explanation for the low technology enrolments may be due to the fact that many youth do not wish to pursue the more difficult and rigorous path that technologists must undergo. Another part of the explanation could be that technology related careers are not promoted by parents who are unfamiliar with the nature of changes occurring within the global economy. As a result, employers end up not having sufficient technology trained candidates to choose from. We need to find ways to more closely align the pursuits of youth to the needs of industry.

2.3 Labour Market Information Is Required

Secondary educational establishments do not have access to high quality labour market and professional development information. The lack of this type of information regarding what the most efficient method of professional advancement is, creates a situation where many youth waste many years of effort and time in their attempts to figure out the best way to navigate and grow within their chosen professional domains. Lacking this critical information, youth attempt to use their logic to figure out what steps would potentially work in the “real world”. Some youth ask for information from guidance counsellors, but again, the guidance counselling field does not have the required resources and expertise on the many different professional domains. They are not equipped with the detailed information that is required to offer unique and accurate picture of the various types of job pathways and environments.

2.4 Results Not As Advertised

Choosing what post-secondary program to enrol in is one of the most important decisions in any person’s life. Given the significant importance that such a decision is likely to have on someone’s life, it is a surprise that many do not base this decision on technical data and a comprehensive set of comparisons. Often, people pursue their passion and justify it with simple marketing tag lines such as “96% of our program graduates are employed!”. Let’s assess that statement. If we know that graduates are mostly employed, how do we know that it was the graduation itself that led to the employment. Could there not exist graduates of a post-secondary program, which then after being denied employment, pursued another program that eventually led to employment? Could there not exist graduates of a post-secondary program, which then started their own business, and after years of trials and efforts managed to gain the requisite experience to gain employment? Could there not exist graduates of a post secondary program, which after graduation did not immediately receive an employment offer, and then worked for years below their level of qualification to gain the requisite experience to work at a professional job. These types of instances are proof that the element which led to the actual employment offer had less to do with the actual post secondary graduation, and more to do with the efforts exerted after post secondary, that eventually led to the full employment offer. But this realistic look at the situation is not represented faithfully according to the line “96% of our program graduates are employed!”. The line implies that the graduation was the key, and the question should be, should marketing be used this way.

2.5 Legacy Curriculum/Laboratory Set-Ups Lag Industry

Colleges which teach engineering do not always use a modern curriculum combined with a modern laboratory setup to instruct the latest and greatest methods and technologies. Many students end up practicing on older and out-dated systems. For example, in electronics engineering technology and in computer engineering technology, colleges often allocate a large portion of time demonstrating foundational knowledge regarding integrated circuits and older 1970s or 1980s microprocessors. It is this dated approach to teaching hardware and software that sets people up to have skills that are not immediately applicable and immediately transferrable to a position at work.

At best, the types of companies which recent graduates are likely to encounter immediately after post-secondary training are technology start-up companies. These type of companies are often looking for senior experience to overcome the complex challenges which they often set out to achieve. Due to the legacy technical training, a College or University graduate may not immediately be the best person to show the start-up how newly released technologies work. Some start-up companies hire workers based on the idea that the employee will take the lead, show how the technology works, and implement solutions. A bigger company may not have such expectations, but there are not many large technology companies within most towns, medium sized cities or “secondary cities”. The majority of companies are small, as they have anywhere between 0 and 100 workers. 1% of companies have anywhere from 100 to 500 workers and only 0.1% are large companies with at least 500 workers. Due to the fact that recent grads are likely to work initially in a start-up and also to the fact that there is a large abundance start-up companies in Canada, then it makes it challenging for young graduates to apply their legacy knowledge to the current needs of industry.

2.6 Traditional Post-Secondary Or The Alternatives

What is the most effective system for the delivery of work aptitudes and knowledge to workers, post-secondary or the alternative work training systems? It is a common conception or belief that College programs are designed to address the skills gap and that Universities are designed to build foundational skill and expertise required for work. As a result, society allocates much of its financial resources towards these systems. However, there are other “work support systems” which form the “backbone” or “infrastructure” that people follow to progress in the working world. By reducing funding to the traditional post secondary system, society resources could be allocated to these other “work training systems” or “alternative educational pathways”. The savings could be channelled towards the alternative educational systems, such as; private trainers, private institutes, professional certifications, professional designations, career institutes, professional networks, professional associations, self-study, micro-credentials, massive open online courses, continuing education programs, wage subsidy programs, apprenticeships, boot-camp programs, mentorships and internships.

These “non post-secondary” pathways offer a quick and effective path to a professional career. They offer a high return, for various reasons. First, they don’t take a lot of capital and time to pursue, as compared to the lengthy nature of post secondary. Second, they are generally regarded as being “like the real thing” or “very close to the real thing”. Third, they can be the “main criteria” or “ticket” that opens the door required to actually practice in a profession.

Alternatives to “post-secondary” pathways are often much shorter in duration than traditional University or College training programs. This brings up the important point that, if these alternative pathways involve less time in training, then how can they be used to train individuals to the professional level. For this reason, many assume that the only choice for training professionals is University or College. While it is true that it is not possible to include all of the necessary building block knowledge to build a technology from the ground up, within a short training program, it is also true that a quick program can give an important overview of the methods, steps and tools actually used in the work environment. This exposure to similar toolsets in short training programs, is the key for many employers, and that is why they choose to hire motivated graduates from such training programs. Further exacerbating the issue of an employer preference for “alternative educational programs”, comes from the slight “anti-degree sentiment” prevailing in some work environments. While employers need to hire technical graduates, often the applicants which are available are those with multiple non-technical degrees. This emphasis on degrees without a work relevance has sent employers a general message of caution in regards to the employment of degree and diploma holding individuals.

One solution is to consider the promotion of all of the various pathways of education to students at an early age. Though the students may choose to register in the alternatives rather than post-secondary, this shouldn’t necessarily be a concern. It could be good for society to have candidates that have specialized non post-secondary training. Students need to be told early on if the career they seek is best sought within the post-secondary framework or within a professional private educational system available at an institute, association or center within society. Then, employers will have more choices and will have a broader market of skills to choose for maximum compatibility with their needs.

2.7 Adopting The Complete Educational Pathway

Many graduates of University and College are a bit dissatisfied with the effectiveness of their post-secondary credentials towards the attainment of employment. After years of rigorous study and large capital outlays to attain these type of credentials, many are surprised to find that it is often insufficient to expect employment based on these types of achievements. Not knowing what to do, some students have pursued one College and University after another. Meanwhile, there are others who have bypassed this traditional system, and instead pursued the attainment of short online coursework either online or through in-person bootcamp programs, and have achieved employment success. Bootcamp style programs can be used to quickly create career-ready graduates with skill in areas not readily available within the labour force. This has helped many workers cross the skills gap and therefore could be used to help solve the short-term economic demand for trained workers.

The short-term skills gap could be solved through quick “specialized skill” type training programs available in various forms, such as: MOOC certificate, private training institute, or a bootcamp style program. A lot of the quick training programs have the added benefit of immediate access to a community or network of like minded professionals who are either employed or close to attaining new employment. Networking with the peers in the program is a good idea. Upon graduation, it is a good idea to not delay the job search. Knowledge gained in the program will decay over time, and has a limited useful life. Do not let months or years pass, as the skills will atrophy. By seeking employment right away, it increases your ability to perform well on the job. In addition, these quick alternative educational pathways are cheaper than post-secondary in terms of time, effort, and capital. You will also gain exposure to the type of tasks that you will actually need to perform at work.

As for solving the long term requirements of complete removal of the skills gap, workers with deep proficiencies will be required. To address this need, short-term bootcamp style programs could be used together with other longer form programs. For example, think about the combination of a degree or diploma from College or University with a bootcamp style program or a set of professional development courses or professional certifications or professional designations. This would represent a kind of full professional development pathway.

By joining a “slow moving” post-secondary program with a “fast moving” private training program, the students would be able to build expertise while also receiving a “up to date” training on niche processes being implemented at work. Students would then be more familiar with industry terminology and concepts.
Some possible combinations include:

(“Technical” Degree or “Applied” Diploma) + Bootcamp (RedAcademy – UX Design Professional, …)
(“Technical” Degree or “Applied” Diploma) + Private Trainer (QCollege, Global Knowledge, CompTia, ..)
(“Technical” Degree or “Applied” Diploma) + MOOC Certificate (UX MicroMasters, … )
(“Technical” Degree or “Applied” Diploma) + Designation (CFA, CFP, I.S.P, AScT, PMP, CBAP, …)

Another way in which education can be combined for maximum effect involves creating a hybrid educational pathway with both College and University. An Applied College program could be integrated with a University degree. This would enhance the applicability of the degree towards giving students the real world ability required to solve problems in their domain. The applied portion of the program could occur at the end, perhaps with University consisting of the first three years and College making up the last year.

These alternative solutions could produce a very well prepared candidate, as students would receive a “double exposure” to professional preparation, and therefore, would gain a solid understanding of the profession. Further, a “full pathway training system” could be achieved in the same time or even quicker, than what many students currently do, and that is the pursuit of 2 or 3 University or College programs in low demand areas.

On a long term basis, society needs both post-secondary and professional education systems to be used in tandem as part of the training of professionals. For example, the professional designations usually require a professional work experience component as part of those kinds of educational pathways. Students are already studying 4 to 10 years in post secondary, but often do not achieve professional status and are therefore not always able to contribute towards professionally regulated fields. A complete educational system would create candidates that can contribute to both regulated and unregulated professions. Citizens should be able to achieve all elements required to be compatible for work as part of their training program.

2.8 Technical College Diploma’s and Job Training Are Not Enough

Some would argue that we already have the educational mechanisms implemented in society required to overcome the skills gap. For example, the government attempts to address the skills gap through the provision of “job related training grants”. As another example, applied technical diploma programs available at the local Colleges claim to provide students the real world skills necessary to solve all of the type of technical problems they may encounter at work. Let’s quickly examine both cases.

First, in regards to the “job training grants”, the government of Canada sponsors a large amount of workers yearly to study training that employer’s consider relevant to their particular work environment. These programs limit the type of education one can sign up to, usually to the post-secondary system of the particular province of residence of the worker. An area of improvement could be to open up the type of programs allowed, to allow students to take the latest digital content curriculums made available by leading Universities through programs available on Udacity, edX, Coursera or other similar “MOOC” database type websites.

Second, in regards to “two and three year engineering technology diplomas” which are available in Canada for study, the programs cannot guarantee that the graduates are able to adapt to and solve the exact requirements of the employers. The programs cannot guarantee that the graduates will have the necessary technical skills for the positions available. A technical diploma could be combined with a micro-credential that aligns with the need of the employer. The micro-credential/certification could be one that aligns with the actual job description of the employer.

The reality is that graduates of technical diploma programs are not always up to date with the latest software tools and programming methods required for professional employment. Many graduates end up having to learn the skills required for employment, after taking a diploma program. This may take several years of self study, after their official training program, to acquire the latest required abilities. While a College may teach an aspiring technologist C, C++ and Java, it will rarely go deep into specialized languages such as Python, Ruby, PHP or any of a hundred possible languages/technologies which an employer may want to use. As such, the aspiring developer will need to take a few specialized programming certificates, which will increase the odds of a compatibility between the languages they can offer and the ones that are required. The Colleges provide generalist skill, and do not have time to delve into sub specialties, such as; computer technician, front end web developer, full stack developer, mobile application design, user experience researcher, system administrator, or rails programmer.

This lack of precision in University or college, in terms of simply targeting the tasks that are likely to be used at work, means that post-secondary is often insufficient preparation mechanism in the fast moving technological realm of work. The fast paced nature of technological advancement and the proliferation in the number of possible skills required at work, means that there is a disconnect between University and College training and the requirements of work. A post secondary add-on training module, could help resolve this issue. Students have felt some of this real world requirement, and have proceeded to attain multiple certificates and diplomas. Attaining multiple large qualifications is time and energy consuming. Students would better be served by a diverse set of quick micro-programs. Having a longer list of skills based on quick micro-programs, would increase their compatibility with the skills list required for work, and would ensure they remain a technological fit.

3 BUSINESS ORGANIZATIONS

3.1 Business Are Investing Less Into Workers

Over the last ten years, Canadian businesses have reduced their training and development budgets by approximately fourty percent. This lack of training resulted in a lower level of productivity among the workers, relative to the level of productivity present within comparable OECD countries. And this makes sense, workers that receive little training are not able to produce modern economic goods and provide modern services that are competitive within the international marketplace. By not having the opportunity to learn on the job, workers must deal with a tough professional development process. Solving the skills gap will require that businesses take up this leadership challenge. The businesses across Canada must incorporate into their business strategy, the professional development of their workers via the provision of in-house specialized work training. A sufficient training budget is a necessary part of every business, and removing allocation to this important area, has a long term impact on the ability of the business to access the talent it requires. Businesses can only become or simply remain competitive, if all of the human resources within the business are kept continually up to date with the latest processes. Unless businesses take responsibility in this area, and begin to offer more co-ops, internships, and to expand on-the-job training programs; businesses will find it increasingly difficult to find intermediate and senior level workers for the tasks which they require to complete.

3.2 Businesses Are Not Providing Sufficient Corporate Training

Canada has a very low level of productivity relative to the productivity levels in the United States or to the general level of productivity in other OECD countries. The United States and EU countries generally have a high level of productivity, and one obvious difference between Canada and these countries has to do with the difference in the amount of in-house company training. The root causes of low Canadian productivity could be easily be identified and the productivity issues resolved. Further, we generally hear about complaints from employers in regards to how difficult it is to recruit skilled workers. These idea of ‘low productivity’ is actually related to the idea of ‘recruitment difficulty’. The employer’s recruitment challenge aligns with research that has shown a gradual and on-going decline of company spending on informal “on-the-job corporate training” (not degree, diploma or certificate). It is likely that if the training of workers were to shift from a heavy emphasis on the post-secondary system, to an emphasis on in-house company training, then the productivity levels of Canadian workers would begin to closer approximate the US or European OECD countries.

Aspiring workers, policy analysts, recruiters, and business owners are not sure exactly what to do about the low level of productivity at work, let alone the difficult process of understanding anything to do with the employment processes in Canada. How exactly does it work? The ideas can vary from individual to individual, largely due to the fact that labour market information is not standardized, but consists it consists of various surveys, interviews, anecdotes and government sponsored reports. In regards to the young individuals who pursue their training for a career, they often attempt to use their logic to guess which training path would most likely make them compatible for employment in their chosen field. After many years of frustrated attempts to gain employment in their chosen profession, aspiring workers have been known to attain a long list of degrees and diplomas, but end up showing little work experience or portfolio building.

For the typical human resources professional, to come across many highly overqualified and under-experienced resumes, while at the same time suffer internal company skills gaps and shortages, must seem quite stunning and amazing. Human resources looks at resumes, and they see up to four or five educational programs. Aspiring workers go to university after university, and college after college. It should be a bit frightening that this pattern of behaviour exists to such a large degree. Employers don’t understand this tenacity in individuals to continually learn and build new academic skills. While some students believe more educational programs make them even more ready than their colleague competitors, some employers think it makes no sense to have a diversity of skills and are confounded by multiple and diverse educational attainments. Candidates so strongly need to figure out what skills happen in the workplace, to be ready for employment, that they end up studying continuously in multiple subject areas, rather than working.

If employers were to commit themselves to providing training opportunities, co-ops, internships and apprenticeships, then aspiring professionals would ha¬ve a way to prepare for professional positions without having to guess by enlisting in numerous academic programs. The problem may be that there is not enough open and informal communication between aspiring professionals and employees, and as such the disconnect prevents individuals from being able to join and contribute to companies, and the companies end up with vacant positions which they cannot fill for months, or even years.

3.3 Rapid Training Can Re-Skill Workers Quickly, But Does Not Create Determined Workers

There exist numerous rapid training programs which can help “out of date” job seekers to update their skills before pursuing a new work opportunity. An example of a rapid training program is a coding bootcamp. These coding boot-camps can vary in length from 8 weeks to 24 weeks in length. They can introduce beginners to numerous work related tasks, and therefore help to create a large number of candidates, which can fill the numerous positions available. Unfortunately, the boot-camp programs are easier than long form post-secondary programs, and employers claim that this results in a type of candidate that does not have a long term growth mindset of rigorous and continuous professional development. Good developers are incredibly disciplined and are ready to commit for life, to the ongoing pursuit of development knowledge. Coding boot camps, while they help address the skills gap, do not require the long term determination that one typically gets from attending a long term professional post-secondary program.

3.4 The Unexpected Value of Coding Boot Camps

One can effectively determine the value of different educational options, by comparing the amount that employers are willing to pay for the different educational attainments. Developers get paid not only based on what development work they are proficient in, but the pay is related to their educational standing. According to CourseCompare, on average, a developer with only a high school diploma gets paid $60 124. A similar developer, but with a college diploma gets paid $67 221. One with a Bachelor’s degree, gets paid $82 825. And lastly, if the developer has attained a Master’s degree, they can expect to get paid $94 545.  It is interesting to note that the developers which have achieved a higher level of educational attainment, do not get paid significantly more than those with a low educational attainment. Further to this notion, a boot camp graduate with only high school gets paid $74 482, which is more than a developer with a college diploma and almost as much as a developer with a Bachelor degree. Is this fair? Should someone with a short term rapid fire coding boot camp program make so much relative to the other post-secondary options which are so hard to attain? Whether it is fair or not, this is what the market pays. The market is saying that someone with mostly a high school training and one skill developed quickly in a coding boot camp course, can make more than college graduates and almost as much as a University graduate. The market is pricing in the specialized exposure to certain skills and ideas as being comparable to deep general expertise attained in rigorous and lengthy university and college programs.  To many employers, 2 to 6 month niche coding boot camp training is as almost as valuable as long term University study. For a full report, click here.

4 GOVERNMENT

4.1 Government Should Research And Provide Detailed Labour Market Information (LMI)

So what should the government of Canada do about this situation. What is the responsibility of government? Though the skills gap is problematic for employers, workers, and the economy, it may be the case that this isn’t really an issue which the government needs to take on. Simply put, the role of the government should be to research and provide the required labour market information details to the educational establishment, employers and workers. This lack of specific and detailed information cannot easily be attained by private parties, so it requires the intervention of government to attain on a widespread scale. The government could sponsor research as to the various pathways of possible education in Canada; different combinations of qualifications, micro-credentials, badges, regular post-secondary certificates and assess what these different educational achievements lead to in the real world. The government could do a better job to help influence enrolment in training options to match closer to the demand for certain occupations in the marketplace. This all requires specialized insight and labour market data. This data is essential because Universities and Colleges do not have incentive to provide reliable labour market information to aspiring students, after all, don’t post-secondary institutions want to fill all available seats despite a poor labour market outlook? Why else would students be enrolled in journalism or business, areas with a lower demand profile, when the future actually requires Information Technology and Engineering specialists?

5 EVERYONE

5.1 National Web Strategy As A Central Solution To The Skills Gap

Canada and individuals which aspire to work in Canada, usually spend a lot of money on an on-going manner towards the pursuit of very costly post-secondary educational attainments. If an online educational project were to be implemented, such as a national massive open online education system involving all Canadian educational institutions, then all education provided in Canada from that point on would have a reduced cost overall. This online “automatic training assist” could improve upon the method of delivery of knowledge to students by taking redundant lectures which teachers make on a yearly basis to an always changing student population, and posting that knowledge for automatic delivery online via streaming distribution. Taking out the content knowledge from in person programs and posting the knowledge online, would shorten the overall length of educational programs, and it would force educational programs to focus less on content knowledge, but more on applied project tasks and abilities. Further, with shortened “in-person” program lengths, the cost would be reduced as well. By making an investment in a national central online education initiative for all Canadian schools and instructional organizations, Canada would also be taking a leadership position in education on the world stage.

For a national project to be possible, the provinces would have to work together on establishing the required educational partnerships. A project such as a non-profit central website could pull educational institutions together into a common marketing alignment. A common strategy could include amplifying the marketing ability of a Canadian educational initiative by cross linking all educational institutions and organizations to a central website. As institutions create program pages describing the initiative, and as the institutions make links to a national educational website, a “common marketing/educational platform” would be established for all Canadian training institutions. A co-ordinated marketing endeavour into one channel, would amplify the reach of that channel beyond the reach of many other “educational actors” acting alone online. A central site could take Canadian students, but it could also generate revenue from students all around the world. This online system would need to appeal to students, so it would be good idea to make student loan system compatible with educational offerings that would be offered on the centralized national educational platform.

6. 25 MORE SOLUTIONS TO THE SKILLS GAP

6.1/ Update Career Guidance Counsellors

Guidance counsellors help students from a mentorship perspective. They sometimes observe the academic and social skills of students, comment on them, and attempt to advise on the proper course of action. But as useful as this is, what students really need is an understanding of the skills landscape. The students need to understand online MOOC options for education, the post-secondary system, and also, they need to be able to demystify the real way in which individuals gain employment. This way may include lesser known methods, such as the pursuit of professional certifications and designations. Guidance counsellors could benefit from an update and refresh on this profession-specific employment and labour market information.

6.2/ Provide Students A Preview Of Career Options Early

Comprehensive career analysis and planning needs to be part of the secondary school system, throughout the entire secondary program, not just made available as an afterthought. One or two courses and a few workshops, will not provide sufficient information and insight, to enable an individual to make a profound life altering training choice. At present, many students simply guess what career they might enjoy doing, but they often find out years later that it is not an in demand skill which they have chosen. It is essential for students to know early on what’s in demand in their local environment, in the event that they don’t plan to move. And for those thinking that they are willing to relocate, it is essential to find out where one might relocate to at some point in the future. Knowing a possible destination, one can figure out what the demands of such an area might be, and therefore be able to make logical training choices.

6.3/ “Job Availability” Should Lead Training Enrolments

Youth un-employment is usually higher than regular unemployment figures across industrialized nations. A large factor behind this has to do with the fact that youth are often trained in things that are not immediately demanded in the labour market, and it often takes a few years, before youth can readjust their training to suit and become compatible with the needs of the labour force. Often, the enrolments in post-secondary are not decided by the needs of the market, but are decided by the aspirations and brief research of 17 and 18 year olds. 17 and 18 year olds do not have the necessary data, research and insight into what choices might suit them best and/or what might be in their best interest to pursue. Enrolment should be influenced more from the demand side of the labour market, rather than the thinking of secondary students.

6.4/ Incorporate “Specialized Skills Training” within University and College programs

College and University programs are very good at providing “content knowledge” and “other information” to their students. The focus is usually less on the training and development of a set of job-related specialized tasks and skills. Rather than acquiring the often required presentation skills, conflict management skills, sales skills, negotiation skills, STEM skills, IT skills, soft skills, hard skills and other relevant career related skills; students end up memorizing large amounts of “content knowledge” and “related information”. After graduation, many graduates find themselves in a position of being required to offer a unique talent or high level skill to an employer, only to find that their training has consisted of the assimilation and acquisition of a large quantity of unrelated topic and subject knowledge. As a result, in being unable to perform the required skill or job function, many positions go unfilled. Eventually, some graduates pursue self-directed training for enough years, that they eventually adopt the requisite skills to perform a desired 21st century job function.

6.5/ Expand Enrolments To Applied Diploma Programs

Applied Diploma Programs are usually shorter than University programs in duration. Within a short time frame, these programs can produce graduates with the kind of technical proficiency required meet the specialized needs of the technology industry. These programs get to the point. They avoid throwing unnecessary information at the student, while at the same time, they simulate real world technical challenges very well. Consequently, the programs are a good way to build real world practical technical problem solving competence within the labour force.

6.6/ Expand Enrolments To Boot-Camp Programs

Coding Boot-Camp programs are not meant to compete as a training method to the training programs offered by post-secondary institutions. The post-secondary institutions offer long term training where students can get a full and in depth exposure to a professional field. By contrast, the coding bootcamp is usually designed to be completed in under 28 weeks, and therefore only trains individuals to perform a certain professional topic. So for example, whereas a computer science degree may cover five programming languages and twenty technologies, a coding bootcamp will usually cover one process or one role, such as UX Designer or Front End Web Developer. The coding bootcamp can take a beginner in a particular skill, and train them to perform a job function in as little as 12 weeks. Therefore, making these type of programs abundant is key to enabling the continual re-skilling of technology professionals as required to meet the changing nature of the technology industry.

6.7/ Promote Short-Term Training Programs For Job Seekers

Micro-educational programs are starting to surface online and in various key locations throughout Canada. They are being created because there is demand from job seekers to learn up to date and relevant skills needed in business. Micro-educational programs such as coding boot-camps are not meant to compete with traditional three or four-year post-secondary system, but they are meant to complement such training. The rise of such programs is a good thing. Prior to micro-programs, upon not being able to find a work position on graduation, post-secondary graduates went back to post-secondary to add a more specialized applied college diploma to their portfolio or even a high level Masters Degree. In the end, many graduates ended up being $60 000 in debt, and unable to pay it off as their particular training may or may not have matched the needs of employers. Contrasting this process, some savvy students recognized the parallel educational options available, and pursued professional designations from organizations such as the Canadian Securities Institute, Project Management Institute, Global Knowledge, or International Institute of Business Analysis. While some 4 year post-secondary graduates enrolled in multiple post-secondary programs, only to find themselves taking positions such as retail or customer service, other students were able to lock in better jobs through private and professional pathways such as professional certifications, designations and MOOC certificates.

6.8/ Restrict Funding (grants and loans) Of Programs Leading To Low Employment Opportunities

To some, it may be a bit controversial of an idea, to reduce the funding of programs which produce graduates in low demand specialties. But it makes sense. By prioritizing funding to programs which produce graduates in high demand specialties, then a greater number of students will graduate in areas where there actually exist opportunities for work. It is common public perception that society must always invest in training endeavours and in post-secondary institutions. It is a perception that there exist insufficiently trained candidates and that is why individuals generally have a tough time in find or switch work. But the data shows otherwise. In 2011, nearly half of workers between the age of 24 and 64 held a college or university qualification. In addition to this, about 12% held a trade qualification. In total, nearly two thirds of Canadians held a post secondary education qualification of some sort. Suffice it to say, Canadians have attained sufficient education, and yet vacancies remain. The problem cannot be solved through a continual devotion to proliferating and expansion of the training system and suggestions that more education is required. The solution rests with the idea of understanding which sectors have a surplus of workers, and which sectors have a deficiency of workers. By understanding where a labour supply deficiency exists, funding can then be provided to only those sectors where supply of workers is low.

6.9/ Industry And Post Secondary Partnerships

Lack of collaboration between industry, academia, and government is a major reason as to why the skills gap still exists. Experts at IBM have reported on this observation dealing with the separation between the academic world and the business world. To solve the skills gap; academic institutions, governments and business organizations need to refuse to maintain these divisions, and to accept an ongoing collaborative effort towards solving the skills gap permanently.

6.10/ Recognize Micro Credentials

Micro-credentials are available in various forms. The most common of which is the popular Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) type. A vast number of MOOC courses are now available on online course database sites such as edX, Coursera and Udacity. These courses are designed by leading technology companies and Ivy League Universities. Further, they are offered at very inexpensive prices, and even for free to low income individuals. For these reasons, many students are pursuing professional development through these types of systems. The question remains, do employers value this kind of professional development work. There is some evidence to suggest that recruiters are looking at these new certifications and contacting candidates based on completion of these types of programs. However, more could be done. Industry could step in to declare which of these programs are most relevant, and even recognize some of these programs as relevant to certain occupational roles.

6.11/ Provide “In-House” Corporate Training To Employees

For workers who have a less experience, the logical path is to apply to an entry-level position and then to hope that the company they have applied to offers some sort of ‘in-house’ skills development training program. Unfortunately, a lot of companies are looking for ready to go candidates, candidates which do not need further training, and this often entails looking for very experienced senior candidates. The government has tried to address this problem of underemployed junior workers by allocating resources to job grant training programs and the post-secondary educational programs. However, despite the large amounts of ongoing resources spent in these areas, the vacancies still remain. One thing which government could do, is to approach the business community and explain in detail just how much resources have been spent on workers to make them ready and compatible for employment. Further, the government could offer incentives such tax breaks to companies which are willing to create in-house training opportunities such as internships, apprenticeships, mentorships, and co-ops.

6.12/ Promote The Benefits Of Volunteer Internship Positions

Some students do not understand how to apply the knowledge and process techniques which they gained in the school setting to the work setting. This has become a common reality for many students. This lack of work ability stems from the fact that many students have not had enough time to practice the application of theories and concepts learned in school towards the resolution of work-related challenges. Being unsure as to how to contribute towards work roles, many students end up years in underemployment or unemployment. Time eventually passes, and as knowledge gained in school remains unapplied, it is eventually forgotten. Individuals in this situation end up feeling frustrated with the overall educational process, and even begin to question the value of the degree that they may have attained. An interesting solution to this dilemma deals with the idea of “volunteer internship positions”. This type of position is rarely advertised on main job boards, but it would be very helpful towards bridging the transitions of students to work roles. In such a position, the students could figure out and practice how to apply their knowledge base and problem solving capacities to work related challenges. The students would gain real world skills and experiences, which could then be used to gain a paid professional position. Some applicants could even pay for the privilege to learn from experts in the work environment.

6.13/ Promote The Benefits Of Skilled Trades To The Public

Many members of the public have a negative perception of anything to do with “blue collar” manufacturing work or trades work. This is reflected in the high school curriculum, which for example usually features at most one course within a five year period, on say a manufacturing subject. The advice usually given to youth is along the lines of “pursue your passion” and “follow your dreams”. This kind of advice does not enable youth to make a realistic assessment of the job opportunities which they may have, and they end up enrolling in degrees that often lead to an inability to find jobs in their chosen fields. By being “steered away” from good paying “blue collar jobs”, parents and educational advisors aren’t helping this generation, but they may be inadvertently creating a “lost generation”. The solution is to promote the benefits of the skilled manufacturing and trades work to the public, and especially to the youth.

6.14/ Consider Innovative Skills Mixes As A Substitute For Experience When Assessing New Candidates

The graduates from University or College will not have enough skills listed on their resumes, as they do not have enough years of experience. On the other hand, senior professionals may command too high a price or may simply be nearing retirement. An interesting solution would be to look for unique candidates which may have attained the required skills, but which have done so outside of the work environment instead of through their experience. Thus they are able to do the job, but they may not quite have the necessary years of experience on the job. Unless employers consider candidates with skills attained outside of the work environment, they may run the risk of not being able to staff their vacant positions.

6.15/ Hire Based On Skills and Portfolios, Rather Than Only From Post-Secondary

It was estimated by Human Resources Skills and Development Canada (2016) that approximately 70% of jobs in the upcoming decade will require a post-secondary education. Candidates and recruiters have aligned well to this requirement. Candidates have loaded up on post-secondary qualifications and recruiters generally look for them before interviewing any candidates. However, both the candidates and the recruiters have overlooked the key criteria of suitability for a professional role, skills development. Skills development happens through years of self-study, research, exploration and the development of a comprehensive professional portfolio either through entrepreneurship or through employment at another place of work. Throughout the recruitment process, some candidates simply list off their post-secondary educational achievements and the job titles of their previous places of employment. This is a comfortable way to approach the recruitment process, but it is definitely not competency based! A better solution would be to require the demonstration of skills in real-time and the demonstration of competencies perhaps through a submission to an online challenge. A competency examination in combination with the submission of a work portfolio would both prove talent, development, readiness and diligent work ethic.

6.16/ Make Computer Science Mandatory From Grade 1 to Grade 12

Grade school students are choosing not to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers. As a lot of the upcoming career opportunities will be technology oriented, grade school students are not choosing a course of action that is in their best interest. To familiarize students with technological concepts, society could incorporate computer science concepts into grade level 1 through to 12. Example of courses include; computational concepts, network administration, cyber security, programming, application development, user interface design and mobile development. In addition, high school seniors could be shown how to apply their leanings to work via short apprenticeships, mentorships, co-ops, and internships. By ensuring that the youth are familiar with the type of niche skills likely to dominate the 21st century economy, we would better prepare them to succeed in both STEM based post-secondary and in technical careers.

6.17/ Enhance Labour Mobility With Affordable/Subsidized Housing And Relocation Support

A lot of the professional technical work opportunities are available in the city centres of medium to large sized cities. A lot of employers within these city centres are also facing a skills shortage within their high tech departments. Coincidentally, these central city areas are also likely to be too expensive for most young workers to reside in. To convince highly trained and highly talented young workers to move from the suburbs into the city or to move from smaller cities or towns to the big city, the cost of mobility needs to be reduced. Government can assist in this process by developing a relocation program for workers who wish to relocate from a smaller city to a larger city center for work. In addition, government could also provide access to subsidized/affordable housing for hard working individuals who have the motivation to make the effort to move to a more costly city for work.

6.18/ Agree To A National “Web Based” Digital Course Platform For Providing Skills Training And Job Information

Canada does not have a national educational ministry or national education strategy, unlike the other G8 countries. For this reason, it would be difficult to get different educational institutions and organizations across the different provinces to co-operate on the deployment of a national educational initiative. Further, any such initiative, would likely require that private business training institutions also collaborate and contribute. How could all of this be achieved without any central coordination? By adopting a national strategy, it would be possible to capitalize on opportunities such as a joint educational web system for universities, colleges, private institutions and associations. By combining forces, and cross linking web presences, it would be possible to drive a sizeable amount of internet traffic to a national online initiative.

6.19/ Support Applied Research Projects Rather Than Academic Publications

The majority of leading business executives in Canada believe that academic institutions and business organizations do not collaborate enough towards addressing the fundamental skills development challenge facing the country. While academic institutions are good at fundamental research and the creation of academic publications, the institutions are not focused on the development of skills and applied research that could be useful in an industrial setting. To overcome this issue, both industrial organizations and academic institutions could set up ‘technology innovation centres’ where professional workers, students and teachers meet to discuss and attempt to solve real world innovation challenges. Academic institutions could host applied research innovation projects at large central facilities, where participants, post-secondary teachers, post-secondary students and other community members could meet to collaborate. Government could sponsor such innovation conventions, instead of spending billions yearly on on-going fundamental research, where there is no clear idea as to who will eventually benefit from the research or whether that research is useful in an industrial setting.

6.20/ Truthfully And Accurately Advertise The Complexity Of The Job

There are some positions which require “intermediate level” or “advanced level” skills and abilities, but they are advertised as “entry level”. This is not fair to the aspiring professional. If a new professional does not succeed at what they think to be an entry level role, they will blame themselves, rather than understanding that the employer was simply offering advanced role within the wage level of an entry level role. In addition, some employers also throw a lot of complex tasks at junior employees, and this does not give the junior employees enough time to build up their experience and track records to be able to confidently handle complex tasks. Therefore, it is important to accurately and truthfully discuss and advertise the complexity of a job to a potential candidate.

6.21/ Invest In Instructional Design And Curriculum Development So That Universities and Colleges Do Not Lag Behind Industry

STEM workers are in demand in business operations across the economy. The rate of growth in demand for these workers has outpaced the regular rate of employment demand. Unfortunately, a skills gap has emerged in these technological areas due mostly to the fact that the technical skills which are demanded by employers are always changing, and many workers have had a hard time keeping-up to date on an ongoing basis. Being that we are undergoing a technological revolution, the skills demanded in the marketplace are always more up to date than the skills offered as part of the post-secondary training programs. Though the education system has tried to keep up, there seems to be long delay between the time knowledge is required in the marketplace, and the time Universities/Colleges release knowledge as part of their curriculum programs. Students in technology oriented disciplines may at times appear as if they are struggling professionally more than the students in non-technology oriented professions. This does not signify that there is a lack of competence associated with technical professionals, but this can be attributed to the fact that technology professionals are always having to learn and deal with newly acquired knowledge. The education system needs to adapt to these “high speed technical sectors” and invest more into the instructional design and technical curriculum development, such that the post-secondary system does not lag behind industry at all. This would help reduce the burden placed on aspiring technology professionals from always having to self-teach the required skills after attending the post-secondary or private training programs.

6.22/ Mentor Junior Employees

Mentoring employees is a key step which companies need to take to remain competitive and to ensure long term success in the marketplace. Mentoring new or junior employees develops the workforce and it makes it more likely that workers will grow professionally within the organization. As more experienced personnel move on to other opportunities or retire, new workers are then ready to take the intermediate and advanced roles. The mentors are able to provide training that is not possible to get through educational institutions, usually application specific training such as in robotics or supply chain management. Through mentoring, the new or junior employees gain the necessary experience and confidence to tackle superior roles. In time, they are able to accomplish more for the organization, and are eligible to receive more compensation from the organization.

6.23/ Develop Internal Workers

Employers are having a tough time in recruiting for technology or industrial careers. Employers face an interesting problem, how does one find talented individuals in the latest technologies when those technologies and processes are continually changing. Want to find talented technical candidates? Want to find senior engineers and senior developers? Where can one find experts in industry and technology? Here’s an idea, develop the talent internally! It is often the case that young workers, in their attempts to join a company, end up agreeing to work for a company in a higher level of skill and responsibility than they are ready for. Companies are all too willing to go along with this. Companies often give junior employees tasks and responsibilities that are above their developed capacities, pushing them to develop on their own, only to lower the actual chance of success for such an employee. In response to this criticism, companies say that they cannot develop internal workers, as they run the risk of the workers leaving for other companies which are willing to provide more compensation.

6.24/ Promote Career Succession Planning

Unlike larger Enterprises, the majority of Small To Medium Enterprises do not have a succession plan. Seeing as though baby-boomer generation are preparing to retire, this issue should be put on the agenda. A time will soon come where baby-boomers will simply be too old to stay part time in the workforce to mentor the next generation of youth. Sectors such as manufacturing and construction will likely face skills gaps, as not enough people with the right skills will be able to step up to replace the senior personnel which will retire.

6.25/ Promote To A Portion Of Youth To Pursue Short Term Training Programs

In the pursuit of work-related skills, a lot of millennials have spent many years of their working life in various academic institutions or in continuing education training programs. Many of these programs have turned out not to have a direct relationship or applicability to the needs of tech employers, but they did replace many of the years which could otherwise have been spent by millennials in the accumulation of wealth. Saddled with high levels of debt and no work opportunities, many millennials have become a bit angry, employers a bit discouraged, and parents a bit agitated. A quick solution to this would be to ensure that short-term training programs are also promoted, not just long term ones. By promoting short-term training programs, some students will find a fit right a way and maintain the possibility of being able to contribute work to society for a maximum amount of time within their life.

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