Evidence of meeting #44 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was job.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Alexis Conrad  Director General, Horizontal Management and Integration Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
  • Yves Gingras  Senior Director, Economic Policy Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
  • Catherine Scott  Director, Trades and Apprenticeship Division, Labour Market Integration Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

I'll call the meeting to order.

Once again, we apologize for having you wait. There were some intervening bells and a vote, but hopefully that will be behind us now for the rest of the time that we have allotted to us.

My suggestion would be that we hear your presentation—I'll see if there's consent—and then if someone has particular questions I'll just allow the questions to be asked, rather than going back and forth, so that we can move to the next portion a little more quickly. Let's start with the presentation.

Mr. Gingras or Ms. Scott, are you presenting first?

Oh, it's Mr. Conrad. All right.

We'll start with you, Mr. Conrad, and then all of you can present. Then we'll open it up to some questions.

4:15 p.m.

Alexis Conrad Director General, Horizontal Management and Integration Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development

Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and distinguished members of the committee. On behalf of the department, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.

My name is Alexis Conrad, and I am the director general of the horizontal management and integration directorate of the skills and employment branch. I have with me today Catherine Scott, from the labour market integration directorate, and Yves Gingras, from the economic policy directorate at the strategic policy and research branch.

HRSDC was pleased to appear at the beginning of your study on March 12. At that time, my colleagues provided details on HRSDC's programming and how it helps to address skill shortages, including those in high-demand occupations. I know that since then you have heard testimony from a wide variety of stakeholders and are currently completing your study. Hopefully, our presentation and the discussion following will help you finalize your work, and we look forward to seeing your report.

As you know, the Canadian economy is undergoing important structural changes. We are witnessing the growth and decline of various industries and sectors.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Excuse me, Mr. Conrad. We are having some trouble with the interpretation. Just a moment, please.

Sorry about that, but I think we have it now.

Please continue from where you left off, Mr. Conrad.

4:15 p.m.

Director General, Horizontal Management and Integration Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development

Alexis Conrad

At the same time, the Canadian population is aging, which means that despite immigration, our labour force will grow more slowly than in the past.

Some parts of the country are already experiencing tight labour markets. Some sectors and regions have skill surpluses and high employment rates, while others are facing increasing scarcity of labour with the right skills. Addressing these challenges is critical to enabling individuals, employers, and governments to make key hiring and investment decisions.

HRSDC is taking a number of steps to help address these challenges, particularly through our investments in skills training and employability programming, and our efforts to enhance labour market flexibility, or the flow of workers between regions and sectors. Permit me to take a minute or two to address each in turn.

A significant component of HRSDC's labour market programming involves transfers to the provinces and territories. Each year the Government of Canada transfers almost $2.5 billion under the labour market development agreements and labour market agreements, and over $218 million to provinces through the labour market agreements for persons with disabilities. In addition, budget 2011 announced that the targeted initiative for older workers, a cost-shared program, would be extended by $50 million over two years until March 31, 2014. Using these transfers, provinces and territories have the flexibility to respond to their own labour market needs and priorities.

The Government of Canada also has targeted initiatives for youth, older workers, aboriginal people, and people with disabilities. For example, as part of the economic action plan 2012, the Government of Canada is investing an additional $50 million in the youth employment strategy, which helps young people gain the skills, abilities, and work experience they need to make a successful transition to the labour market.

Increasing the overall supply and mobility of skilled trade persons is a key priority, since we know that many future job vacancies will be in the trades. The government has a long history of working with provinces and territories and industry in the Red Seal program. This has resulted in common occupational standards and examinations for the 53 Red Seal trades.

To help increase the number of apprentices, the government has recently introduced a number of measures. The apprenticeship grants offer up to $4,000 to support Red Seal apprentices. Over 330,000 grants have been issued so far. In order to help offset the costs associated with training, apprentices can also receive employment insurance benefits during their classroom training. In 2010-11, $172 million in EI benefits was paid to apprentices.

To encourage employers to hire and train Red Seal apprentices, the government offers the apprenticeship job creation tax credit, and recently announced a one-year $205-million extension of the temporary hiring credit for small businesses. Many provinces and territories have developed complementary programs for apprentices using federal transfers. For example, Ontario has launched a completion bonus in non-Red Seal trades.

In addition to our skills programming, our department's efforts focus on enhancing labour market flexibility. Generally speaking, Canada has a flexible and responsive labour market; however, supply and demand are not always perfectly lined up. For example, demand for labour can rise suddenly when a new project is developed. Labour markets adjust in response to these changes. Wages rise. Employers change their hiring practices. Individuals acquire new skills or choose to move from one part of the country to another. In this regard, the government plays a key role in providing labour market information that helps individuals and employers make better employment choices.

HRSDC, in collaboration with Statistics Canada, delivers a large amount of learning and labour market information to individuals, businesses, educational institutions, and governments. We have a range of different tools to measure labour market tightness, and are continually refining our approaches to build a better picture of current and evolving labour market opportunities.

The Working in Canada website is the Government of Canada's single window, combining jobs and learning and labour market information such as wages, occupational forecasts, licensing and certification, skills requirements, and education and training. This information helps students and workers choose the right fields of study and find out where their particular skills may be in demand. It also helps educational institutions make decisions about curriculum development and admission levels based on anticipated demand in emerging or growing sectors. Over the past year a number of improvements have been made to the site to improve the quantity and quality of information that is available.

In July 2011 Minister Finley announced a new approach to addressing skill shortages, an approach that would gather critical information for job seekers and employers and make it more readily available to the Working in Canada portal.

The sectoral intelligence program will aim to support the development of sectoral labour market trends and gaps reports, along with occupational standards and certification programs to assist with workforce skills upgrading activities.

In addition, HRSDC and Statistics Canada have worked together to develop new aggregate job vacancy information at national, provincial and industry levels on a monthly basis. This improved labour market information will contribute to a better match between skills and labour market demands and will complement the information provided by the Canadian Occupational Projections System.

The Canadian occupational projection system provides projections of trends in occupational labour supply and labour demand over the medium term at the aggregate national level. While it is not the sole source of occupational projections, COPS does signal which occupations may face gap shortages or surpluses of workers into the medium term—over the next 10 years. For example, COPS projects that there will be a shortage of supervisors in mining, oil, and gas.

Let me conclude by thanking you for the opportunity to contribute once again to your study. Ensuring that we have the skilled workers to drive growth and competitiveness is crucial to Canada's continued prosperity. As I have discussed today, HRSDC works with a number of partners and stakeholders to address skills and labour market demands across the country, from measures that support skills development to those that improve the movement of workers between regions and sectors.

My colleagues and I would be happy to respond to any questions you have.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Thank you for that presentation.

I guess that will be the only presentation from the three of you and then you'll be open to questions.

Just in a quick show of hands, how many are interested in posing questions from both sides? Okay, then, we'll go to our usual format.

Before we start, I have just a quick question. We were in Saskatchewan and heard from a witness with regard to the SaskJobs website that the Province of Saskatchewan has for southeastern Saskatchewan. It tracks all the employers that are looking to fill particular occupations. People do go to that site. Is that site connected somehow to HRSDC? Secondly, I read this morning that the Atlantic premiers are getting together to gather some labour market information in the Atlantic provinces. Are you tied into that process or to either process?

Can we have a quick response to that? Then we'll start with Ms. Charlton.

4:20 p.m.

Director General, Horizontal Management and Integration Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development

Alexis Conrad

In respect to your first question, unfortunately I don't know if we're tied into that specific website. The department has made a lot of efforts to link our Working in Canada portal with other sites offering labour market information and with job sites, but unfortunately I don't know if—

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Okay. SaskJobs is something that the Province of Saskatchewan has invested quite a lot in with respect to the local market, so it might something that we want to talk about. The other, you're not...?

4:20 p.m.

Director General, Horizontal Management and Integration Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development

Alexis Conrad

I haven't seen the announcement from the Atlantic premiers. We have an ongoing conversation with provinces around this issue, so I'm sure it's something that will come up in conversation.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Okay.

Ms. Charlton, go ahead.

You have five minutes.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

In the interests of letting everybody ask a question, is it okay if I don't take the whole five minutes? I don't know how formally you want to do this and whether I should be sharing my time or...?

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

It seems like there's enough interest from everybody, so we'll just go round by round.

If you want to share your five minutes, go ahead.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Sure—I'll share my five minutes with whoever.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Komarnicki

Okay, go ahead.

June 18th, 2012 / 4:20 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

I have two quick questions.

One is that I'm profoundly worried about losing a whole lot of detailed information on the labour market, particularly as a result of things like the cancellation of the sector councils and others. I wonder if you could speak a bit about your sources of labour market data and what we might be able to do to expand those sources and to make sure that data is reliable.

For the second question I have, the chair just twigged me to it. Yes, we did hear a lot about SaskJobs, and it sounds amazing, but one of the things we're doing, I think, is creating this overreliance on online tools, and for job seekers in particular. Literacy is a huge concern in some demographic sectors, and online literacy even more so. I wonder what you're doing to complement your portal and online strategies to reach out in other non-technological ways, if you will.

Thanks.

4:25 p.m.

Yves Gingras Senior Director, Economic Policy Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development

I can start with some elements of the answer, and maybe my colleague Alexis could follow up with some more information.

In the department we continuously look for ways to improve data. In fact, we have recently financed the development of a collection of information on job vacancies. This is something that Statistics Canada has been doing for us. It helps provide a better basis for us to understand the dynamics of the labour market.

We have also developed a relationship with some private sector businesses that bring us information about job vacancies. That is also available for us to expand our capacity to understand the dynamics of the labour market. It's another example of the things that have been accomplished lately in trying to improve the data. Sometimes we run into difficulties, but there's new data being put out there that the department has been actively promoting.

When it comes to servicing people with online tools, I would like to point out that my understanding is that Service Canada has some strategies to make sure that there are other ways to reach out to people and that the information flows to clients. There are strategies within Service Canada to make sure that our messages and our information are delivered and are reaching people who may not have online access or have limited access to our online products.