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About 43 per cent of executives say the best way to close the gap is for employers to offer more training for new employees.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Canadian executives are having a tough time finding workers with the appropriate talent, and one possible solution is for parents to become more involved in their children's career choices.

A survey of 500 executives, to be released Tuesday, shows that seven out of 10 executives say they have trouble finding employees with the right skills. Those in the manufacturing, health-care and public administration sectors have the most difficulty and the problem is most acute in Quebec and Western Canada.

But the survey, conducted for the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC), and conducted by Environics Research Group, shows a highly divergent view on the solutions to the problem.

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About 43 per cent of executives say the best way to close the gap is for employers to offer more training for new employees. An equal number say the solution is for prospective employees to better prepare themselves for the labour market.

But Mark Venning, chairman of CERIC, said the responsibility needs to be shared more broadly – it should not just be up to employers and potential employees to cure what he calls the "talent disconnect."

Parents – many of whom are not giving their children proper advice on postsecondary education – have to change their approach, he said. That means being more pragmatic in how they advise their offspring, so students gain the skills needed by businesses. "[They need to ask] where is the work really needed, and what kind of tradeoffs are you prepared to make to go after those type of things if you really want to make money," he said.

What complicates the issue, Mr. Venning said, is that there are considerable differences in the skills needed in different provinces and regions. Consequently, there is a role for the federal government, which needs to collaborate with provincial education authorities, business and the career development community, he said. "Band-Aid" programs, designed to fix short-term employment issues, aren't good enough, he said.

According to the poll, many employers are prepared to offer significant amounts of training to ensure their work force has the needed skills. And nearly two-thirds say they will consider hiring employees with the right "soft" skills, then provide training on technical issues. Still, many companies can't even find people with those skills, which include a positive attitude, communications skills, the ability to work in a team and a strong work ethic.

Many employers – almost two-thirds – also say they worry about losing workers after they have invested considerable resources in training them.

To find the right people, employers most often count on referrals from their existing workers, the survey suggests. Many others offer training to lower-level employees within the firm who may move up into more senior positions. Other recruitment methods – such as using social media, employment agencies or headhunters to find new employees – are widely used, but less common.

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The executives cited many reasons for the high levels of youth unemployment in Canada, but two mentioned most are that young people are too demanding, and they lack real-world experience.

Mr. Venning said young people – and many older workers too – have to be more enterprising when it comes to managing their careers. That means being prepared to gain new skills, depending on the work environment. "The average shelf life of a full-time job isn't that huge any more, so you have to be your own entrepreneur," he said.

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