This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

Evidence of meeting #29 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 engineering.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Tracey Leesti  Director, Labour Statistics, Statistics Canada
Marc Lachance  Assistant Director, Labour Statistics, Statistics Canada
Josée Bégin  Director, Centre for Education Statistics, Statistics Canada
Michael McCracken  Chair and Chief Operating Officer, Informetrica Limited
Marie Carter  Chief Operating Officer, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Engineers Canada
Alana Lavoie  Manager, Government Relations, Engineers Canada

4:10 p.m.

Assistant Director, Labour Statistics, Statistics Canada

Marc Lachance

When you look at the occupations chart, the one on unemployment, one thing StatsCan does have is that with these occupation classifications there's some kind of skill that applies. In each of those skills, there's a classification that says in this occupation there's an expectation of university requirements or a person with a degree.

This information is available, so we can collapse those. We can translate those occupations to some kind of skills definitions, within universities and by province.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

I was actually looking for...if there are 100 people unemployed in Ontario and you know their skills breakdowns, we could match it with other provinces to see why they can't move to get a job.

Do you understand what I'm saying?

4:10 p.m.

Director, Labour Statistics, Statistics Canada

Tracey Leesti

We have to look to see whether that could be somehow derived. It's not something that's readily available. We'd have to look to see if there's some way of deriving it based on the embedded skills set in the occupation classification system.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Thank you, Mr. Daniel. Your time is well up.

I think the point is well made. You have the contact for the clerk. If you're able to get charts to break it down by province, and/or skills set for each of the provinces, in whatever fashion you could do that it would be helpful to the committee. If you send it to the clerk, the clerk will distribute it to the members.

Ms. Crowder.

March 14th, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank the witnesses.

It's interesting. Our study is about fixing the skills gap, addressing existing labour shortages in high-demand occupations, and low-demand as well. I think all committee members are probably very interested in avoiding what I call the “ready, fire, aim” method of decision-making, where we get the wrong order around how we gather information to make decisions.

Part of it is having an accurate assessment of where the projected labour shortages are. What I understand Stats Canada to be saying is that you're giving us what has been. You're not in the business of projection. Is that correct?

4:10 p.m.

Director, Labour Statistics, Statistics Canada

Tracey Leesti

Yes. We provide the information. There are occupational projection systems out there that are done by external analysts, government—HRSDC—but we don't necessarily do occupational projections. We have the data sources that feed into that.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I only have five minutes and I have tons of questions on the data sources, so I'm going to pick on one.

On the job vacancy survey, I've been looking at other papers that look at the demand side. You probably are aware of the questions we raised the other day on some of the problems with demand-side analysis.

On job vacancies, one of the problems that's been identified with the demand side is the fact that the signals are available via newspaper job listings, provincial and public employment agencies, social insurance services, and so on and so on, but they go to on to say there's a great deal of difficulty of accurately classifying jobs based on newspaper ads and the fact that many jobs go unposted.

With your job vacancy survey, very briefly, what kind of range of things do you look at?

4:10 p.m.

Director, Labour Statistics, Statistics Canada

Tracey Leesti

I'll maybe let Marc address it. It's not what we call a “help wanted index”, where we go to postings—online postings or newspaper postings. It's attached to one of our monthly employment surveys.

I'll let Marc explain it a bit more.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Is that the one that's distributed to employers?

4:10 p.m.

Assistant Director, Labour Statistics, Statistics Canada

Marc Lachance

Yes, that's right.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Before you get into more of the explanation, I assume you use some sort of occupational coding system.

4:10 p.m.

Assistant Director, Labour Statistics, Statistics Canada

Marc Lachance

No. That's really.... The job vacancy survey is a new one that has just been implemented. It's attached to our business survey. Every month StatsCan samples about 15,000 employers. It's part of the payroll survey—the earnings we report every month.

In this one we ask each employer whether on the last day of business in that month they had any job vacancies, and if so, how many. We have specific definitions. It has to be a position where there's an intention to fill it.

We know that in some online job postings there's maybe a bit more that's being advertised—

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I'm going to interrupt. That's about the vacancy piece, but I'm more interested in the occupational coding.

4:15 p.m.

Assistant Director, Labour Statistics, Statistics Canada

Marc Lachance

We don't have the occupational coding in that survey. That survey only gives us the industry.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

On the job vacancy survey, though, you do list industrial sectors. Okay. So it's only by industrial sector, not by occupation.

4:15 p.m.

Assistant Director, Labour Statistics, Statistics Canada

Marc Lachance

That's right.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

So if we're looking at skills shortages, this is an industrial sector rather than necessarily particular skills and a skills set.

4:15 p.m.

Assistant Director, Labour Statistics, Statistics Canada

Marc Lachance

That identifies the job vacancies in that industry.

There are some industries, like health, where usually it's all health related. According to the census, about 85% of occupations within that industry are health occupations.

In the other industries we have a breakdown of occupations. If you're interested, we can provide you with the breakdown of those occupations, but that survey does not give that. We don't have the opportunity and we don't have the time. We couldn't ask the employers for the types of occupations that are in higher demand. The only thing we ask of that employer is how many job vacancies they have.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I think what I'm driving at is that I'm sure everybody here has heard of garbage in, garbage out. I'm not suggesting that this is garbage in, garbage out, but our challenge is to determine if the information we're getting is a true representation of what's happening in the labour force.

I'm going to go to Mr. McCracken for one moment here. As we all know, analyzing what's happening in the existing labour market and projecting for future labour shortages is a very complicated matter. There's a whole bunch of factors—demographics, changing technology, the changing economy, government policy, education. There's a huge list that's going to impact on what those future labour shortages are.

Mr. McCracken, I think you made a very good point, that we need to move away from looking at just particular occupations and look at transferrable skills and skill sets.

You talked about lag. Have you any ideas on addressing lag?

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

You might want to put your question because your time is—

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I am.

Have you any ideas on addressing lag? That's my question.

4:15 p.m.

Chair and Chief Operating Officer, Informetrica Limited

Michael McCracken

Sure. The one reason you forecast is to get a lead time and to anticipate what you can do.

The secret there is to recognize that the very first thing is that the future is not forecastable. None of us know what will be the demand for anything 10 years or 20 years from now. But what you can do is lay out a set of assumptions and look at what we call alternative scenarios.

For example, we supported the construction industry for one of their advisory councils to HRSDC and generated four scenarios of how the construction industry might go ahead over the next decade. That was done about five years ago. That provided the backdrop for them as they began looking at what policies they might pursue to improve labour markets in those areas.

As they came up with an idea, let's say to expand the apprenticeship program, they asked how well that would work under all four scenarios. We asked them if there were some things they could do that are what we call robust, that work under almost anything you can imagine, or if there are some things very particular and very peculiar, and to understand that difference. They were asked to see whether, as time goes on, they could pick up which of these scenarios they thought was the one that's actually going to evolve.

It is, I think, possible to do a lot. It does require the statistical base to develop these models. Fortunately, we have that with Statistics Canada. Certainly, though, in this case, in this field, perhaps most complicated of all, it requires the interaction between employers, economists, government planners, and the education system, all of whom have their own ways of looking at things and their own ways of defining things. So it represents a real challenge for you.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Thank you for that.

Mr. Shory.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the witnesses also. The witnesses have been very informative today. I learned about knowledge workers and service workers.

Mr. McCracken, I will start with you because I myself am an immigrant to this country, and I had my studies from Punjab, India.

You touched on both things. You talked about immigration. You talked about reducing the backlog in high-demand areas as well as.... As a matter of fact, just so that everybody's aware of it, our ministry is actually focused in that direction. Minister Kenney has said a couple of weeks ago, I believe, that he's going to fast-track some immigration applications that are in high-demand occupations.

Coming back to immigration, I'd like to hear your comments. I'm a very firm believer that immigration and the foreign qualifications both can be huge contributors to labour shortage issues. Based on your analysis, I want to know how many new workers you estimate will be gained through immigration within, say, five or ten years or so. Of course, I'll follow my colleague's line on foreign qualification recognition because that's my passion. I have lived through that.

Would you agree that the timely recognition of foreign qualifications, whether it be of an immigrant or a Canadian who has gotten the qualification abroad, would be helpful to alleviate skills shortages and/or to address the issue of labour shortages? I'd like to hear about that.

4:20 p.m.

Chair and Chief Operating Officer, Informetrica Limited

Michael McCracken

So all that in two minutes?

I, too, am an immigrant to this country. I feel immigration should have, and has had, a role in Canada's development, not so much in filling skill shortages as in making Canada a more diverse society. Immigrants contribute to our trade relationships with different parts of the world, and they can contribute as employees, whether or not they have credentials.

If you have an immigration policy, as we do in Canada, that is high on trying to get the best of the world to come here, then you'd better know what you're getting, and this has a lot to do with the certification exercise. If you want to be running your immigration policy on the basis of education, then it ought to be that you have someone, usually whom you trust, whether abroad or in Canada, to certify those degrees.

The skills are a little trickier, because they include things like the ability to work with people, to work on a team, and those are a little tougher to measure, period, for anyone, whether you are a Canadian, new or old, or an immigrant. It also may be culturally determined, so that is another factor to keep in mind.

As to the number of jobs, if you have roughly 250,000 immigrants a year, and half of those go into the labour force, you're looking at an increase in the labour force each year of 125,000 to 130,000 for as long as your immigration rate holds. Will they all get employed? That's a little trickier question. It will depend on whether you're able to get a full-employment society where anyone who comes in can be assured of a job.