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.