CEO Message – November 2016

Stronger workforce, stronger economy

Bill GreenhalghEmployers in Ontario have been facing a growing problem for some time now: the disconnect between the skills they need, and the skills job applicants have to offer.

The skills gap has been the subject of much commentary, but identifying the problem is only the first step. Finding workable solutions is what we must do next – and that is what HRPA intended to do in our newest research report, Strengthening Ontario’s Workforce for the Jobs of Tomorrow.

Canada has the highest proportion of adults with a post-secondary education among all Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations, and the cost of those degrees is roughly double the OECD average, according to 2014 OECD data. Yet more and more of those highly qualified degree holders struggle to find jobs in their field, as I wrote in an op-ed for the Huffington Post.

Although there is no official Statistics Canada data on the subject, an estimated one in three Canadian graduates are currently working in low-skill jobs unrelated to their education, according to a 2015 CBC report. Meanwhile, 59 per cent of HR professionals feel that Ontario students, workers and businesses do not currently have sufficient access to labour market data to help build their future prosperity, according to a 2016 HRPA member survey. Not knowing what jobs are, or will be, available makes it a challenge for young people to decide on the right course of study.

HRPA’s new report, which you can find at this link, offers several key recommendations for strengthening the workforce in Ontario and better aligning education, training and employer and industry needs. The recommendations drew from the expertise of our members, which we collected in member surveys earlier in the year. If there is a theme to those recommendations, it is that of collaboration. There must be a strong environment of collaboration between the government, educational institutions and industry if we are to build a better workforce, and keep Ontario competitive.

A full 59 per cent of our members feel that Ontario students, workers and businesses do not currently have sufficient access to labour market data – yet 65 per cent feel that it is “very important” to have accurate data provided.

We’re calling for better and more centralized labour market data – a recommendation that was endorsed by Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel in June – as well as for educational institutions to work more closely with businesses in developing curricula.

We’re also calling for employers – and specifically, HR – to maintain the critical focus on on-the-job training, and asking that government find ways to provide support for the associated costs.

And the skills gaps are significant. HRPA surveyed its members to determine what are the most important attributes are of a highly skilled worker, as well as what skills might be missing. The top three characteristics selected were:

  1. Well-rounded critical thinker, analytical with problem-solving skills. Creative, imaginative and resilient;
  2. Strong communication skills; and,
  3. Able to work in complex and evolving environments.

The education system needs an overhaul, one HRPA member said in the membership survey. And that could not be more accurate. We need more programs which are specifically designed to understand the current skill level of incoming workers, and can then address any gaps so that these people can join in the workforce faster and more efficiently. That’s what are members have told us – so we took their recommendations directly to the decision-makers.

HRPA presented the report at Queen’s Park to a group of Members of Provincial Parliament, Cabinet Ministers and parliamentary staff in late October, the same week Premiere Kathleen Wynne had spoken out on the importance of the topic. Our relationship with the provincial government and role as a trusted advisor continues to grow as we build the body of research and thought leadership we contribute to the ongoing public dialogue.

Our next upcoming research report, entitled HR & Millennials: Insights Into Your New Human Capital, will be released at the end of this month, so stay tuned for some interesting findings.

As a further update, please feel free to read the article that appeared in the Oct. 31 issue of Canadian HR Reporter about HRPA’s work with the ISO on creating a global competency framework for HR.

And if you’d like to participate in any of our initiatives, we’re always happy to hear ideas and feedback from our members – feel free to get in touch!

Kind regards,

Bill Greenhalgh

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