Canada needs to do a better job of collecting and disseminating reliable labour market information, the kind employers, students and policy-makers can rely on to make good decisions, observers say.
“Our data is horrible,” said Rick Miner, a former Seneca College president who took part in a federal labour market advisory panel in 2009. The U.S. and most European countries do a much better job of tracking the job market, he said.
When the federal government, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, cut Statistics Canada’s funding and also the long-form census, it left an information vacuum, said Miner, now a partner in the Toronto-based management consulting firm Miner & Miner.
In its place is a hodgepodge of conflicting claims by employers and labour groups and a lot of anecdotal evidence.
“The problem is everybody’s got a vested interested here,” Miner said. “You’ve got to be very careful what you believe and who you believe.”
The Canadian Occupational Projection System is based on outdated “national occupation codes,” the official descriptors of hundreds of job categories, he said. “There’s no apps developer, no windmill technician.”
It doesn’t take into account the fact that jobs evolve over time and require new skills, Miner added. For example, even hotel housemaids now require some training in technology as hand-held devices are used to track which rooms need cleaning. Nor is it able to predict future kinds of work, he said.
“Think of iPad, or Kijiji, or cloud computing,” he said.
Miner believes the country is facing a widespread crisis of skilled workers, a term broadly defined to include anyone with more than high school education.
While 62 per cent of Canadians now achieve some form of post-secondary education — including apprenticeships, college and university — he said that figure will need to be closer to 70 per cent by the end of the decade.
“There’s an increased need for people who are in more skilled categories,” Miner said. “That doesn’t mean simply trades. Technicians, technologists, engineers, research scientists.”
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor