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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

4:30 p.m.

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

Alexis Conrad

In regard to the specific project you mentioned, I'm not familiar with the project, but I would note that the government has increased the youth employment strategy envelope by $50 million. A number of our aboriginal programs, including the skills and partnership fund, which picks up a lot of the elements of previous programs, offer significant amounts of money to support youth.

One of the things we do know, and I agree, is that where people lack the basic and essential skills, they will struggle to get into and stay in the labour market. Lots of our programming—both within the youth employment strategy envelope but also through our office of literacy and essential skills—is targeted at working with provinces and with employers to increase investment in those kinds of interventions, so that people can move up their literacy and essential skills, and actually move into the workforce more easily and stay in the workforce for longer.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Thank you.

With that, Mr. Shory, go ahead.

June 18th, 2012 / 4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, witnesses.

I am from Calgary, Alberta, so I know that there is a huge shortage of skills and general labour in the energy sector. But during this study, I think we can all agree, we've found out that there are skills and labour shortages in other sectors as well, not only in the energy sector. Of course during this study we are trying to identify and obtain some solutions or suggestions on how to fix this issue.

Our government is working with businesses to identify and try to fix the skill shortage and labour problem. Can you provide some information to us on how the federal government, specifically your department, HRSDC, is working with private industry in order to address the skills and labour shortage issues, if you are?

4:30 p.m.

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

Yves Gingras

I will try to outline some elements.

Alexis, feel free to complement, if you wish.

When it comes to working with the private sector, I can give one good example of a recent accomplishment. We've been able to incorporate in our basis of information—when it comes to labour market information—job postings that are collected by the private sector to improve the type of information that we bring. We know that the market takes time to adjust and may not fully adjust, so helping with better information is one way that we think we can support adjustments in the labour market.

We have a labour market in Canada that's very dynamic. There are a lot of changes occurring. Jobs often are filled by people who are currently employed. They will switch from one job to another. When we look at those jobs that are vacant, using information from the private sector is, we think, up-to-date information; we have one provider who provides us with three updates a week. So we have very up-to-date information that helps us complement the national surveys that we have and the information that we get mainly from the surveys of Statistics Canada.

That's a good example of where we partner with the private sector and get information in a cost-effective manner.

4:30 p.m.

Catherine Scott Director, Trades and Apprenticeship Division, Labour Market Integration Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development

I'll just add to that in terms of entry into the skilled trades. There has been a significant investment in both the apprenticeship incentive grants and the apprenticeship completion grants to encourage individuals to enter into the trades and to support them through their training. The apprenticeship job creation tax credit is another example of a support directly to employers to hire apprentices.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Thank you.

I have a question on the temporary foreign workers program. During this study we have found out one thing. On the one hand, we have so much unemployment in some areas, where people are looking for jobs; on the other hand, we have a shortage of workers and sometimes in the same industry, the same sector, the same businesses.

I have found out that LMOs are issued in some sectors where people are looking for jobs, where Canadians are looking for jobs. I'd like you to comment on the amount of temporary foreign worker applications that you are aware of and also if they are affecting our job vacancy statistics.

4:35 p.m.

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

Alexis Conrad

Somewhere I have them, but I don't have in my hands the actual number of temporary foreign workers. We can certainly provide you with the information on the number of LMO applications.

I would say that, as you know, the temporary foreign worker program is designed to be kind of the last choice when we can't find Canadians to fill jobs. There are occasions where in the same sector you see temporary foreign workers and domestic workers. We go through a rigorous process to ensure that employers are only bringing in temporary foreign workers when there is no domestic supply available.

One of the other things that the minister has talked about recently is improving job alerts and providing more job opportunities to people who are unemployed and on EI, so they can actually get back to work more quickly. So they will receive frequent job alerts for jobs available in their field, in their area, that they can apply to, which hopefully should place them in any positions that they can actually work in.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Talking about this new program the minister announced, it is basically connecting the dots, I would say, for job seekers and the jobs. What resources are available to HRSDC in this regard?

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

That will be your final question.

If you could do a short response, it would be appreciated. Go ahead.

4:35 p.m.

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

Alexis Conrad

Thank you.

Certainly, one of the areas where the department has focused its attention recently is what we call the accelerated labour market opinion, which is largely in response to employer demands and is an effort to speed up the labour market opinion processing times to get applications down to about 10 days. Employers who are in good standing with the program can attest to what they've done in terms of advertising the job to speed up the process. It's a significant effort by the department to respond to employer demands and to the needs of the industry.

In response to your previous question, I would just say that in 2011 we put a total of 151,520 labour positions on positive labour market opinions. That has increased from 131,000 in 2009 and from 140,505 in 2010.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Thank you for that.

We will now move to the member from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

That's perfect.

I would like to raise three points and then listen to your replies.

There has been a lot of talk about Job Alert, an on-line system. I share my colleague's fears in that regard. Basic programs for community access computer centres will no longer be funded. In certain areas, where up to 40% of residents regularly look for work, particularly because of seasonal realities, those workers often have some challenges in that they lack essential, basic skills. In many cases, they don't have access to computers. In addition, the community access computer centres have been eliminated, and these were used a great deal in certain towns.

Given those circumstances, on the one hand I wonder how such decisions can be made, and on the other, how anyone can think that Internet alerts will reach all of the Canadians who need that information. That was my first point.

When we toured the Canadian west, not one witness told us that Canadians were lazy, or were refusing to work. However, we heard a lot of testimony from industry representatives, chamber of commerce members, owners of Tim Hortons, according to which the social environment makes access to the labour market difficult for some.

For instance, in Fort McMurray, a very likeable gentleman told us that there were many young people who have the necessary skills to drive his trucks, but because of the prevalence of soft drugs or alcohol consumption, 70% of them do not pass the test after three months. The problem was not a shortage of candidates, but a substantive social problem. In Whitehorse, a chamber of commerce representative told us that the cost of living is so high that single mothers cannot have access to the labour market because they cannot afford the high cost of day care.

Was your department ever asked to examine those issues and determine how many people could have access to the labour market but are prevented from doing so by this type of environmental or social issue? Is this a part of the department's duties?

Furthermore, during the committee's hearings in the Canadian west, one witness suggested that an accelerated mechanism be put in place to process applications from those employers who have shown that they comply with the TFWP rules. It was pointed out that this worked better in Quebec than elsewhere.

Is there some way of facilitating awarding permanent resident status to workers who have been in the country for a long time, especially those the community says it needs, if they have been working here for three years, for instance?

4:40 p.m.

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

Yves Gingras

I could answer the first two questions, the first having to do with access to information. You referred to the Job Alert program, that seeks to provide information to people, and to the fact that people sometimes have trouble accessing it. You spoke about the closure of centres where the information is available.

As I mentioned previously, I know that in its communication strategies, Service Canada takes into account the fact that some people have very limited access to information. They may not have access to computers, for instance, or are cut off from certain media. The strategies to reach those people take that reality into account. All of that is developed by the department as a complement to the basic strategies that are increasingly based on computers and access to the Internet. We know that people with low incomes, in particular, do not have access to that and that is taken into consideration by Service Canada when it develops its strategies.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Are there already some preliminary solutions for these more specific groups who do not have access to information, or to very little of it, and whose basic skills are a problem?

4:40 p.m.

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

Yves Gingras

I know that there are strategies directed at individuals who use libraries or centres where computers are available.

There are also centres in cities or in rural areas where people can have access to computers. If access to computers is a problem for people who have limited basic skills, Service Canada can take people to Service Canada centres to help them in other ways. There are ways of bringing people to the centre, and helping them with their needs so that they will understand the information.

Regarding your second question, you spoke about pools of potential workers. The issue is not necessarily that those workers do not have the skills, but they sometimes have problems integrating the labour market. They may have a drug dependency, such as in the example you gave. These are really issues we discuss with the provinces in the context of employability. In that case, we turn to social assistance programs, for instance, where we take into account the fact that the person may or may not be employable. Within the social assistance programs, the provinces have other targeted programs.

The answer is, thus, that we have data on socio-economic characteristics and the problems people face in integrating the labour market. A large part of the measures are taken through social assistance programs that fall under provincial jurisdiction.

I know that several provinces have adapted programs to the type of clientele they deal with, to help them when there are specific non-employability issues. For instance, if the issue is one of drug dependency, there are some very specific public health programs that are available. However, this is really a matter of provincial jurisdiction.

That said, these are labour-market-related issues. In our discussions, and when we do our analyses and our research, we share this type of thing with our provincial colleagues and public servants. Indeed, at the federal level, there is an interest in removing barriers and difficulties these people face. We share our information with our provincial colleagues so as to help them to intervene in an appropriate way, which will give us a better performance on the labour market.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Thank you very much.

Your time is up.

We'll move to Mr. McColeman.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Thank you for coming and describing really effectively the things that are in place, which, in some ways, strike me—and I just want verification on this—as being new inventive ways of doing things a little better than we have done with other programming. Is it correct to make that observation based on what you've said to us today?

4:45 p.m.

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

Alexis Conrad

Yes.

We have a lot of experience with a lot of these programs. We've adapted as we've gone along. Through some of our new programming, we've taken positive experiences from the previous programs or interventions that we know work, based on our assessments and evaluations, and tried to improve the program going forward, and I think we're seeing some really positive results.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

My sense of your efforts, and the efforts of the ministry in general, is that this is a constantly moving target. Adjustments need to be made constantly, and you constantly need to challenge yourself, day in and day out, by asking whether there is a more effective way to do things. Is that something that's part of the culture of your job?

4:45 p.m.

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

Alexis Conrad

I think absolutely it is, yes.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

I want to relate a quick example of one of the programs that has worked quite effectively for a constituent I just met. He's a young fella—well, not really that young. He's in his mid to late thirties. He'd worked in the food service industry as a cook and almost had the skill set of a chef but had never been able to get the Red Seal. His company went bankrupt, and he lost his job and was on employment insurance benefits. Now he's enrolled in the Red Seal program and will get his Red Seal, I think, in less than two years, because of the fast track that it's enabled him to go on. A lot of his hours in the industry will count towards that Red Seal.

It's situations like that where I compliment the ministry on recognizing that there are people out there, in that capacity, who through no fault of their own lose their jobs. They may want to upgrade and may want to get to that certification level they haven't had in the past.

Are there any other examples like that, which you're aware of and that you might share with the committee? Any of you?

4:45 p.m.

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

Alexis Conrad

Certainly one of the department's focuses has been on working with provinces on exactly those kinds of issues. We are transferring almost $2.5 billion a year to provinces both for EI clients, through the labour market development agreements, and for non-EI clients through labour market agreements for those exact kinds of interventions, in addition to the funding we provide through our own targeted programs.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

This is my last question, Mr. Chair. I'm just curious, what does “horizontal management” mean?

4:45 p.m.

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

Alexis Conrad

That may be the most difficult question of all to answer.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

I used to know a guy named “Horizontal Forbes” because he slept in the back of the bus on the way to hockey games. What does horizontal management mean?