CIC - Spring/Summer 2023

It’s Official – We Have a Labour Shortage!

CICan Members Offer Training Solutions

There is a skilled labour shortage in Canada. More alarming is that the labour shortage promises to worsen in the not-too-distant future. Organizations, like Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan), are doing their best to mitigate the damage brought on by a lack of qualified individuals in a nation that desperately needs workers to fill these well-paying, highly fulfilling positions.

The concern

It is not difficult to find data that supports the fact that there is a skilled labour shortage in Canada. Close to 40 percent of Canadian businesses say they can’t find workers to fill positions.  Conservative estimates place the lack of skilled workers at around 60,000 right now, however, the actual number could be much higher. Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) claims that our nation has lost out on $13 billion in revenue due to cancelled contracts and orders that could not be fulfilled due to the labour shortage in 2022 alone. Meanwhile, with 22 percent of construction workers expected to retire within the next decade, Buildforce Canada says that the construction industry will need to recruit over 300,000 new workers by 2030. All this comes as no surprise to industry insiders who have been warning about the emergence of the labour shortage for years.

For its part, the government of Canada has been tracking the labour shortage issue and have put incentives in place to encourage people to pursue education and training to fill positions. From their perspective, well over 200,000 apprentices will be needed to move into skilled trade jobs by 2026 in order to maintain our nation’s economic growth.

Nationally, the top five skilled trades that require workers to meet the demand between now and 2026 are cooks, electricians, millwrights, painters/decorators, and welders. While labour shortages vary by province—British Columbia and Quebec need hairstylists while Atlantic Canada and Saskatchewan need carpenters—pretty much any skilled trade person with the appropriate training and credentials can find work anywhere in Canada.

Addressing the shortage

This bodes well for skilled workers seeking employment opportunities across Canada, but what is being done to address the evolving shortage? Certainly, government programs are being rolled out to move people into the skilled trades. The federal government is also adjusting immigration criteria to help deal with shortages in key sectors like healthcare and construction. In addition to this, they are partnering with organization like CICan to train the workforce. Now that the labour shortage is upon us, governments at all levels are in reaction mode.

CICan: The proactive approach

However, CICan, the chief advocacy group for Canada’s colleges, institutes, polytechnics and CEGEPs, has been dealing with the skilled trade situation for years, proactively addressing the issue before it evolved into its current state.

From an organizational level, CICan continues to work with both the federal and provincial government representatives to ensure that its member institutes specializing in the skilled trades have the research and data available to help them make decisions. Unlocking Inclusive Pre-Apprenticeship Pathways Project is a most recent example of such efforts. A panel of CICan member colleges and institutes, along with stakeholders in the business community, looked at ways of not only improving apprenticeship programs, but also ensuring they were accessible for people with developmental disabilities, women, BIPOC, and Indigenous students. The project was created from extensive research, a data-driven action plan, and a coherent blueprint for implementation. This approach has allowed CICan to demonstrate to its members—as well as the various levels of government and the people of Canada—that it is employing a comprehensive strategy when it comes to the skilled labour shortage.

CICan and the Indigenous learner

CICan members continue to roll-out programs at the local level with a similar focus as the umbrella organization. Besides developing curriculum and opportunities for the aforementioned, member colleges and institutes have also put a great deal of effort into providing programming for Indigenous learners.

Below are a few of the program options currently offered by CICan members in Canada.

  • Trades training specifically designed for Indigenous learners with some specifically targeting Indigenous women and 2spirit individuals.
  • A $10,000 incentive for businesses who engage Indigenous learners and individuals within marginalized groups as trades apprentices.
  • Training for Indigenous learners looking for technical expertise to search or map sites of former residential schools.
  • Culturally relevant curriculum which include skills trade training at seven designated Indigenous CICan colleges and institutes

According to CICan, close to 90 percent of Indigenous people are living within 50 kilometres of a college or institute which provides an ease of access for Indigenous students.   CICan members have developed over 300 credential programs tailored to the needs of Indigenous learners; this demonstrates a powerful, comprehensive, and national commitment to Indigenous learning.

Inclusion and prosperity

Since 1972, CICan has identified inclusion as the key to prosperity in Canada and have been promoting inclusive programming for decades designed to meet the needs of the Canadian economy. While the nation currently grapples with an acute skilled labour shortage, CICan—with the assistance of all levels of government and the business community—has positioned itself as a national leader in skilled trade training. An admirable strength of the CICan approach has been its leadership in providing advocacy and research to its members. In turn, these learning institutions have opened their doors to under-represented groups, welcoming all-Canadians to pursue a career in the skilled trades.

By Sean Dolan