Canada’s Skills Crisis and a Local Solution

The London Chamber of Commerce’s Global Experience @ Work project increased awareness among Chamber members of the need to attract, recruit, hire and retain skilled immigrants and to provide tools and resources to help members do this.

By Gerry Macartney, London Chamber of Commerce CEO Blog

Much has been written about Canada’s growing skills crisis. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce says it’s our number one barrier to competitiveness. Despite the current unemployment levels we have a growing labour shortage and more people with the right skills are needed for us to compete in a global, knowledge-based economy.

Why is this important? Because better trained workers with the right skills are essential to improving Canada’s productivity. A more highly skilled workforce will produce value-added goods and services and the use of new technologies that can maximize productivity and improve our quality of life. Not just a noble goal – an essential one.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s “Emerging Stronger” document also focuses on building a 21st century workforce through workplace training, utilizing newcomers’ skills and apprenticeship reform. The challenges however are huge. There are not enough students entering skilled trades and Ontario’s working-age population will decline by almost 9% by 2036.With an increasing seniors population there will be a labour deficit of more than one million workers by 2031. Add to this – immigrant underemployment costs us between $3.4 and $5 billion a year.

How then do we build a 21st century workforce? Apart from the education and training of domestic workers, there is a local success story that has, in part begun to address the challenge.

The London Chamber in partnership with the London Middlesex Immigrant Employment Council (LMIEC) recently wrapped up a year-long project titled Global Experience @ Work ([email protected]). The project was an initiative of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and is part of its strategy to better integrate internationally trained individuals (ITIs) into the workforce.The LMIEC is led by regional employers that are committed to fully engaging skilled immigrants in the local labour market.

The mission of the project was to increase awareness among London Chamber members (particularly SMEs) of the need to attract, recruit, hire and retain ITIs; and to connect London Chamber members with the tools and resources available to them.

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