There is a skills shortage in Canada. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business reports that almost half of their members said that the shortage of qualified labour was the most important issue they face. Things are expected to get much worse if nothing is done about it now. The problem remains that the population is ageing and there isn’t sufficient population growth to compensate for the numbers of skilled workers who are retiring.
The first baby-boomers have reached retirement age already. In 2015, the government estimates that almost half of the workforce (48%) will be between the ages of 45 and 64. By 2020, most boomers will be in retirement and 17.9% of the population will be 65 or over, compared to 12.5% in 1999. By 2026, Statistics Canada expects that more than half the population will be over the age of 43. As a result, by 2020, Canada could be short about 1 million workers.
The sectors that are experiencing the most significant shortages, are sectors such as natural resources, construction, manufacturing, and information technology. Skilled trades in high demand include heavy equipment operators, industrial mechanics, industrial electricians, building trades, steel and iron trades, automotive trades and welders.
The problem has already affected some sectors. In the steel industry nearly 45% of all tradespersons retired almost five years ago. In the natural resources sector ten years ago, 35% of the workforce was 45 or older and 9% were 55 or older. In the construction industry, 12% of the workers were aged 55 or older. Manufacturing showed similar results where 10% of the workers were 55 and up.
Economists say that the skilled trade worker shortage is affecting Canada’s ability to compete on the global market both now and in the future. Economic trends are favouring countries and production facilities with a large pool of skilled workers.
The shortage of skilled trade workers also means that, as consumers, we may need to pay more for skilled trade services, have to wait for these services to be available to us, and it may take longer for important infrastructure projects, such as roads and hospitals to be completed. A skilled trade shortage will affect every Canadian.
There are key elements to ensuring Canada has what it takes to guarantee that we have the right talent at the right time:
- Ensure companies and post-secondary education facilities are working to attract more Canadians into the skilled trades.
- Improving incentives for workers to move within Canada
- Consider increasing permanent or temporary immigration
Finding top talent is inter-provincially borderless. Having access to the skilled people who are willing to relocate, be mobile, certified, and ready to start employment is what will ensure that we have the right talent to deal with this shortage.