Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in favour of the motion and the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities entitled “Labour and Skills Shortages in Canada: Addressing Current and Future Challenges”.
The report acknowledges that the issue of labour and skills shortages is very complex and requires coordinated action on a number of fronts.
I would like to take this opportunity to highlight what the Government of Canada is doing to close the skills gap. I would also like to address some of the opportunities our partners in the private sector have to be part of the solution.
Now is a critical time for Canada's economic recovery. While markets are fragile because of global uncertainty, Canada is still on the path toward economic growth and prosperity, but this growth can only be sustained if we have a skilled and knowledgeable workforce, which means that our workers must be equipped with the basic skills required to drive the economy. These skills are building blocks recognized in our government's budget, economic action plan 2013.
The economic action plan proposes new measures to connect Canadians with available jobs and to provide them with the skills and training they need to strive in today's economy. These measures include introducing the new Canada job grant, creating more opportunities for apprentices and providing employment support to underrepresented groups, such as people with disabilities, youth, aboriginal people and newcomers.
While significant money is spent on training, it is clear we can do better. There are still too many unemployed Canadians looking for jobs and too many businesses looking for workers.
I would like to focus on the Canada job grant, which seeks to connect Canadians looking to increase their skills with job creators who need skilled workers.
Mr. Speaker, I forgot to mention that I will be splitting my time with my colleague.
For example, a small dental practice in London, Ontario, might be seeking a new dental assistant. The current receptionist is interested in the position but is not qualified. The dentist is keen to retain this worker in her practice and contributes $2,500 toward a $7,500 Canada job grant. That also results in equal contributions of $2,500 from the federal and provincial governments to allow the receptionist to complete the dental assistant course at the local community college. The original receptionist works with the dentist to hire and train a new receptionist. Now working as a new dental assistant, the employee's wage has increased 25%. That dentist has managed to retain a committed and loyal employee and also has the additional flexibility to manage periodic employee absences by having an employee trained in several areas of the practice.
As members can see from the example, for the first time the Canada job grant is taking skills training choices out of the hands of the government and putting them where they belong: in the hands of job creators and Canadians looking for work.
Given the magnitude of the problem, we must ask all players, including employers and post-secondary institutions, to step up to the plate to address this very serious issue. This is especially true for Canadian companies that want their businesses to grow.
According to a survey conducted by the Conference Board of Canada, the average amount companies spent for employees on training and development in 2011 was $747. Companies allocated 1.5% of their payroll budget to training, down from 2% in the 1990s. As well, 51% of organizations plan to cut spending on training, and 33% of Canadian employees said they wanted to further their skills but did not.
Now that the recovery is starting to get a foothold, we believe companies should invest more aggressively in their employees' skills and in their future.
What we are saying is that our future balance sheets could be much better if we invested in the skills needed to propel our economy, and this is the central point in the report: that a concerted effort is required by everyone to tackle this important issue.
Ensuring that Canadians have the skills required for the jobs of today and tomorrow is critical to achieving our top priorities of job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians. A shortage of workers with the right skills can mean forgone business opportunities for Canadian enterprises, lost productivity for Canada, and lower living standards and fewer employment opportunities for Canadians.
Let me quote a few experts on the skills shortage facing Canadians.
In August 2012, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said that a shortage of skilled labour is the main operating challenge facing business owners in Newfoundland.
Susan Holt, the New Brunswick Business Council CEO, said on February 24, 2012:
There are more shortages in the higher-skilled positions but we still have 30 per cent of respondents highlighting challenges in filling low-skilled positions.
Perrin Beatty, the president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said on February 8, 2012:
...what I'm hearing from businesses is they cannot get their hands on the people they need to allow them to expand and be more competitive.
As committee members heard as they travelled to all regions in Canada, the skills gap is real and it is holding back our economy from fully developing. We want to ensure every Canadian can find a place in the job market, because Canadian employers need every last one of them.
Highlighting youth, economic action plan 2013 proposes several strategic investments to help them at different stages of their education and careers.
For example, to make maximum use of education and talent of recent graduates, we will invest through the career focus program to support 5,000 more paid internships for recent post-secondary graduates and we will also improve labour market information for young people considering careers in high-demand fields such as the skilled trades, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
These youth-focused initiatives are accompanied by supports for persons with disabilities, aboriginal people and newcomers that will help meet the employment needs of Canadian businesses and improve individuals' job prospects.
With initiatives such as the Canada job grant, we are addressing the real needs of workers and employers.
By working collaboratively, employers, industry, educational institutions and governments can ensure that our workforce can keep Canada competitive and prosperous for the long term.
This is why we are pleased to provide our support to concur in this report.