The blinding brightness of a very strong spotlight is exposing a transitional moment in the evolution of Ontario’s workforce - the skills mismatch.
Describing the skills mismatch is a challenging exercise. Essentially, it's determined by an employer's ability to find the employees they require to complete the work of their business and to subsequently grow their business. And the ability for those in the workforce to apply their skills to the needs of employers.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce recently released a report titled “Talent in Transition: Addressing the Skills Mismatch in Ontario”. The report offers 10 recommendations to government on how to move the bar and create a workforce in Ontario that is firing on all cylinders.
Broadly speaking, the report is based on discussions with a multi-faceted advisory group (of which the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce was one voice), consultations and breakout sessions at a half day forum, and policy
resolutions from the Ontario Chamber Network that are currently part of the advocacy narrative for the provincial chamber.
The recommendations fall into three buckets:
1. Exploring the Potential of Experiential Learning
Introducing younger generations to the world of work they will be entering into after their schooling is critical. As such, it's positive to see the federal and provincial governments budgeting for such experiential opportunities. However, recognition of the various pathways to achieve the goal is needed, along with ensuring meaningful
engagement. Businesses need to be able to integrate programs with ease and ensure that the experience is just as positive for the student as it is for the business.
The ultimate goal of reducing the skills mismatch is to improve the productivity of the workforce. The provincial government invests a significant amount of money through the Employment Ontario program to support people looking to improve their workforce position, so taking steps to ensure the results are client-centric and outcomes-based is a natural evolution for the training program system.
The bulk of the recommendations fall into the bucket of modernizing the apprenticeship framework. This group of industry sectors is at the core of the mismatch discussion. The need to push the boundaries of the current apprenticeship framework might challenge the current norms but is wholly necessary. As quoted in the Ontario Chamber report, 40 percent of new jobs created in the next decade will be in the skilled trades but only 26 percent of young people are considering a career in these areas. That statistic alone should be impetus enough for us to start innovating in how we view jobs that are considered very traditional. Perhaps it’s worth likening the need to
transition at this juncture to moving from mainly human powered tools to motorized and electric versions to
keep up with demand. Pathways need to be clearly marked and maintained so that the desired outcome of more people entering the trades and completing apprenticeships is achieved.
The upside of this entire discussion is that the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber Network are not speaking about this issue in a vacuum. The government and other groups have joined the dialogue. The challenge is to make sure that all discussions around talent and skills result in actions that lead to a more productive workforce and increased prosperity across Ontario.
Talent in Transition: Addressing the Skills Mismatch in Ontario