Report

Upskilling in Canada – Needs to Plug Gaps

Automation, digital innovation, globalization and demographic shifts have been reshaping the labor market, leading to some long-term structural changes and redefining the skills required to maintain a productive workforce – a trend that has been amplified by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our study shows Canada still stands below the top-performing countries in skills development, and has no comprehensive approach toward lifelong learning. As well, the participation gap in training between high- and low- skilled and educated people is large.

In 2019, the federal government announced the Canada Training Benefit, a universal skills development program intended only for employed Canadians who meet eligibility criteria; several temporary skills training programs
have also been introduced in 2021, after more than a year into the pandemic. Some features of these programs need improvement, however, particularly in regards to eligibility criteria and addressing barriers.

Despite the growing importance of training the workforce and the availability of various programs, individuals, businesses and governments face several challenges in taking the necessary steps to ensure sustainable upskilling and reskilling.

Evidence shows that businesses play a central role in providing training to their employees, but they invest less in low- skilled employees because of lower returns. However, the wider social returns from lifelong learning for adults with low qualifications can be high because it improves their employability, reduces their dependency on unemployment benefits and other targeted transfer spending and boosts inclusive growth. Although subsidies to businesses promote participation in lifelong learning, employers normally fail to address the needs of low-skilled employees.

Another acute problem is long-term unemployment post-COVID. In September 2021, it stood 124 percent above the pre-pandemic level in February 2020. This unprecedented growth in long-term joblessness resulted in an increase in the proportion of long-term unemployment by about twelve percentage points to more than 27 percent in September 2021. A sizeable share of the long-term unemployed in September 2021 were unemployed for 52 weeks or more (63 percent) and prime-working-age adults (59 percent).


As the Canadian labour market recovers from the pandemic, adult education will be pivotal in ensuring that individuals have the right tools to adapt to the new skills the market demands. Skills acquisition is a moving target that needs a dynamic response. Therefore, governments need to pursue a comprehensive adult education
and training strategy centred around public and private sector collaboration to identify skills needs and barriers, and to support the development and implementation of strategies to ensure the strategy’s effectiveness. The goal should be to prepare the workforce to thrive in an environment of rapidly changing demand for skills and more frequent disruption. Governments also need to recognize the limitations of training by businesses, and be prepared themselves to provide high-quality training support to disadvantaged individuals and the long-term unemployed.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ Canada Lags Peers in Upskilling Workers, Needs to Plug Gaps | Research Institute Canada | Canada Economy News | Canadian Government Policy

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