Anecdotal evidence has long said that many Canadian employers can’t find enough workers with the skills they need.
But a new report this week from the Toronto-Dominion Bank makes a persuasive case that, overall, Canada is not suffering skills shortage. If it were true, it would show up in fierce upward wage pressures, and there’s little evidence of that. What’s more, the report maintains that the stereotype of “recent Canadian graduates flipping hamburgers is exaggerated.” Even those with liberal-arts degrees are making progress.
These conclusions support the federal government’s decision in April to suspend the accelerated labour market opinion process for temporary foreign workers, which had made it easy (and quick) to hire foreigners at wages lower than the local going rates. The size of the TFW program more than doubled over the past decade, which suggests that it has overshot its original purposes, and undermined, or even trumped, Canadian immigration policy.
Not surprisingly, Alberta and Saskatchewan, the richest provinces in oil and gas, are experiencing significant labour shortages in some areas. And the statistics confirm some tight demand for engineers, scientists and production workers in natural-resource industries – but that tightness isn’t severe enough to show up as a spike in wages.
Federal and provincial governments – and not least, employers – should continue to aim their job training programs at overcoming actually observed mismatches, through the 2013 budget’s Canada Job Grant and otherwise. They should pinpoint those efforts on the industries and localities where they are genuinely needed – not relying on anecdotal evidence.