By KRISTIN RUSHOWY Queen's Park Bureau - July 29, 2017 - TheStar.com
Chamber of Commerce warns of mismatch between what employers need and what workers trained for.
Ontarians are increasingly worried their job skills will be outdated in the changing economy, says a new report from the chamber of commerce that warns of a mismatch between what workers are trained for and what employers need.
“For many businesses — 82 per cent can’t find (workers) with proper qualifications,” said Richard Koroscil, interim president of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
“We are seeing this big skills mismatch. And we are also hearing, not just from employers, but a recent poll of the general population found that half of Ontarians feel their skills will have less value in the next decade. Unless this is fixed, it is going to have a significant impact on the future growth of Ontario, especially as we move into a knowledge-based economy.”
Koroscil said the skilled trades are in demand, but it’s tough to fill jobs. Businesses would like to see that system modernized — with more flexible journeyperson-to-apprentice ratios — as well as fewer barriers to get into programs. Trades also need to be better promoted as potential careers.
“These are good jobs,” he added. “These are good jobs that pay very good salaries.”
Ontario’s education ministry continues to boost funding for “high skills major” programs in secondary schools, giving students a chance to earn real-world experiences in specialized areas. What’s needed, says the College Student Alliance, is better promotion of the skilled trades to teens.
“The conversation should start in high school — or earlier — so students can understand and know what their options are other than university,” said president Joel Willett.
The alliance would like to see the government create a website for youth that provides labour market information, such as where jobs are, what jobs are available, what skills are needed and what skills colleges provide.
“We have strongly supported in the past the career pathways in the skilled trades, and we have advocated for stronger supports for college students for quite (a long) time now,” he said.
Deb Matthews, minister of advanced education and skills development, said “Ontario’s employment and training programs are helping Ontarians skill up for the jobs of the future. The economy is changing and our government is determined to see that no one is left behind. To do this, we need to ensure that people in Ontario of all ages and at all stages of their lives are able to easily access high-quality training that will prepare them for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”
She said from apprenticeships to skills upgrading “or working more closely with employers and educators to better match students with new jobs, we will make sure Ontarians are ready.”
Matthews also noted that for the first time, mature students are eligible for student assistance under OSAP, to return to school or improve their skills.
Koroscil said artificial intelligence will have a huge impact on the workplace, “and we need to be preparing for that.”
“We need to be anticipating what is going to be coming, instead of reacting,” he added.
On Friday at St. Clair College, Premier Kathleen Wynne said the province will “continue to lead in terms of our highly skilled workforce, in terms of our innovation. I think the mayor was talking today here in Windsor about artificial intelligence. You know, the investments that we are making and the support that we are giving to the innovative sector here in Ontario, that’s where the future lies.”
“And I don’t have enough of a crystal ball to be able to say where we’re going to be in 20 years. But, what we want to do is make sure that we’re graduating young people who are going to be able to take us to that to that new vision.”