Solving the Skills Shortage

JEDI training-to-employment

Last month, we covered how training-to-employment is essential to building our provincial Aboriginal workforce. Rather than using work-first approaches to motivate employment insurance and social assistance recipients to re-enter the workforce, the research shows that training-to-employment is the most effective long-term strategy to engage Aboriginal Peoples in the New Brunswick workforce.

On September 14, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce added another wrinkle to this subject of workforce engagement by “calling on the federal parties to solve the gap between skills employees have and the ones employers actually need” (CBC News, 2015). Their recent report entitled, “Fragmented Systems: Connecting Players in Canada’s Skills Challenge” outlines 5 ways the federal government and industry can address the skills shortage:

  1. Improve labour market information in both supply and demand. Employers need to know where to find workers and potential employees need to know what skills are most important to employers;
  2. Immigration needs to be used strategically to address labour force gaps;
  3. Government needs to track skills gained by post-secondary students and their employment after graduation;
  4. Incentivize apprenticeship for business;
  5. Create work placements for students to prepare for the workforce.

While these are necessary and beneficial, an element lacking from this report is Aboriginal content. The Aboriginal population is young and growing in comparison to an aging and shrinking non-Aboriginal population in Canada. This trend is projected to continue into 2036 as confirmed by a recent report from Statistics Canada. While immigration is necessary as outlined by the Chamber, so is Aboriginal workforce development. Training-to-employment is an effective strategy to move forward.

While training-to-employment is effective, it is not universal. Many occupations require unique skills and even businesses have unique environments and expectations that post-secondary institutions cannot prepare students for. Employers are subsequently frustrated when they are unable to find a candidate with the desired mix of education, skills, and experience. This reality showcases the need for on-the-job training in addition to training-to-employment.

A recent survey shows that employers believe that job seekers “don’t have the right mix of skills”. This results in positions going unfilled for an extended period of time, which costs the employers money, lowers morale, and frustrates job seekers. They conclude that on-the-job training has benefited companies by increasing employee motivation, loyalty, and their ability to meet performance objectives.

Both of these findings are valuable for companies looking to engage the Aboriginal community in hiring. Here are some recommendations arising from the reports from the Chamber and CareerBuilder:

  1. Labour market research must continue to be a priority in the coming years. JEDI is working to improve labour market information in NB regarding the Aboriginal workforce through a provincial skills inventory, currently being piloted in Pabineau and Tobique First Nations in partnership with community leadership and the National Association of Indigenous Workers.
  2. Aboriginal engagement is necessary along with immigration. Statistics Canada confirmed earlier this month that Aboriginals are going to be the youngest and fastest growing population in Canada for the foreseeable future. This is a growing labour force that employers can tap into.
  3. Companies should consider on-the-job training to decrease the cost and frustration of long-term open positions, build employee motivation, loyalty, and increase organizational performance. Skills training and post-secondary education is important to build workforce capacity, however a job candidate with the ideal set of skills and experience may not always be available.
Mike Hennessey

Mike Hennessey, Aboriginal Labour Market Information Analyst, will be a monthly contributor to the JEDI blog. From Pabineau First Nation, Mike holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of New Brunswick and is currently finishing a Masters of Education at UNB. Mike is motivated to share relevant labour market information to help First Nations, industry, and government recognize the potential that lies in the Aboriginal workforce.

Mike Hennessey