Canada has no shortage of labour market information. However, the data is fragmented, often hard to access and has many gaps, such as developments in the workplace, the balance of labour demand and supply in local markets, and the longer-term experience of college and university graduates in the labour market, to name just a few.
There have been some encouraging recent developments:
- Employment and Social Development Canada’s Job Bank has made great strides in posting job openings and providing information on required competencies.
- Statistics Canada has introduced a much improved job vacancy survey with greater occupational and regional information.
- Several provinces have built solid labour market information systems, albeit typically confined to their own territories.
- Business groups are showing much greater interest in how to match labour supply and demand, and their members are providing valuable information on labour needs.
Welcome as these actions are, they still fall far short of the robust labour market information system needed to support an effective skills strategy.
We have compiled 22 recommendations to improve Canada’s labour market information and, ultimately, the functioning of the labour market and the economy. These recommendations are broadly captured under the following four themes:
Recommendations for the business community
- Business groups should encourage members, especially larger businesses, to improve the quality of their responses to Statistics Canada’s workplace surveys. Those filling out the surveys need to have the necessary knowledge of their companies’ operations.
- Businesses should ensure that job vacancies are posted to Employment and Social Development Canada’s Job Bank, so that the Job Bank becomes the “go-to” place for job searches.
- Business groups should work with their members and Statistics Canada to create survey questions that identify the basic skills required for specific jobs.
- Business groups should encourage human-resource departments in large businesses to make more effective use of data that is already easily and freely available from Statistics Canada. To that end, they could organize a training course and/or compile a business users’ guide to the data and tools.
- The business sector needs to deepen its understanding of “soft” skills in collaboration with Statistics Canada, the Forum of Labour Market Ministers (FLMM), the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), schools, colleges, universities and researchers. The goal is to identify more clearly the skills that businesses need, their value, and how they can best be developed and measured.
- The business sector should work with colleges and universities, including a financial contribution, to address the education and training of scarce, highly specialized workers in fields such as cyber-security.
- The business sector should expand its contribution to practical workplace learning by providing more internships, co-op placements, part-time employment, presentations, and so on.
- Employers will need to step up training for new recruits and existing employees, even if the recommendations in this report to improve the transition from school to work are implemented.
Recommendations for the federal government
9. Statistics Canada should be allocated an appropriate budget for surveys, analysis and dissemination of labour market information. To this end, Employment and Social Development Canada should transfer its survey budget to Statistics Canada, following the example of Health Canada and its health surveys.
10. The government should provide permanent funding to Statistics Canada for the new Job Vacancy and Wage Survey. Once five years of data have been collected, Employment and Social Development Canada should sponsor research to help understand the relationships between job vacancies and labour market strength and weakness.
11. Statistics Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada should explore whether the National Occupational Classification’s job definitions can be improved by using the demonstrably useful definitions of literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skill levels incorporated in the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).
12. Statistics Canada should spearhead a pilot project to measure the skills characteristics of jobs on employer-based surveys. First, employer groups would need to reach agreement on valid measurements, and businesses would have to demonstrate that knowledgeable employees would be responding to the surveys.
13. Statistics Canada should conduct a thorough review of the potential for enriched estimates of the non-wage/salary costs of employment, such as health and pension plans, by sector and occupation.
14. Statistics Canada should recommend ways of obtaining more detailed labour market data, focusing on specific geographic areas, industries and occupations. The project should include an estimate of the trade-off between greater granularity and higher cost.
15. Statistics Canada—working with Employment and Social Development Canada, the Forum of Labour Market Ministers’ LMI Council, the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) , and colleges and universities—should enhance the information available on the employment, occupational and earning outcomes for post-secondary graduates. The above players must then ensure that the information is more readily accessible to young people and their parents to support decisions on education and career paths. Initially, these improvements might be achieved by expanding the National Graduates Survey.
16. Statistics Canada should assume responsibility for nation-wide implementation of the project being conducted by the University of Ottawa’s Education Research Partnership Initiative to match student identification numbers with income tax returns with a view to tracking graduates’ employment and income status. This initiative will require backup and coordination support from the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) and the new Labour Market Information (LMI) Council.
17. Statistics Canada and the federal Privacy Commissioner should work with provincial privacy commissioners to draw up a strict but common privacy standard that will enable jurisdictions to share administrative data for research purposes.
Recommendations for federal, provincial and territorial governments acting together
18. The Forum of Labour Ministers’ new Labour Market Information (LMI) Council should quickly set concrete goals that require active collaboration between the federal government, the provinces and territories.
19. In the absence of funding for new data, the LMI Council should quickly develop some labour market information business cases that spell out project benefits, costs and rankings by priority. Without a consensus on priorities, a data plan is just a big “wish list”. The LMI Council should also organize pilot projects for priority activities.
20. The LMI Council should co-ordinate provincial and territorial requests for over-sampling in various surveys, along with any other extraordinary requests. Statistics Canada can then appropriately allocate the additional costs. Coordinating these costs should create economies of scale and reduce each jurisdiction’s costs.
21. The LMI Council should work with employers, labour, governments and researchers to assess the feasibility of another employer-based Workplace Survey. In particular, it should examine the potential for dovetailing the data with existing administrative sources and the new Job Vacancy and Wage Survey.
Recommendation for educational institutions
22. Colleges and universities should make a greater effort to understand how a broader perspective on education—including the development of competencies beyond hard skills and discipline knowledge—can improve the well-being of their graduates, and the economy at large.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Labour market information: an essential part of Canada’s skills agenda