There are two components of… a nation’s growth and economic prosperity… One is having the required workforce to avoid a labour shortage. The other is the workforce possessing… qualities to circumvent a skills shortage.
Human capital is the most valuable resource of any country. An optimum number of skilled workers is critical for a nation’s growth and economic prosperity. There are two components of this basic ingredient. One is having the required workforce to avoid a labour shortage. The other is the workforce possessing the required and desirable qualities to circumvent a skills shortage. In Canada, we need a just-in-time mechanism that is capable of urgently addressing the very real labour and skills shortages faced by communities across our vast country.
The challenge to improve productivity is driving the demand for higher skills.
Last week, ICTC’s Analysts Desk discussed the newly released OECD study that emphasizes the importance of skills as well as policies necessary to ensure their development. The report calls upon the OECD member nations to focus on skills – the global currency of the 21st century – for productivity and growth, and as ICTC noted Canada will be well-advised to execute a program for developing a skilled talent pool.
The Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) released a report in July 2012 that is along the same lines as the OECD report. Titled “Australia’s skills and workforce development needs”, the report focuses on the issues of skills and workforce development and highlights that Australia “as a nation will be constrained unless we have the right settings over the medium term to reduce sufficient supply of qualifications to meet continuing strong industry demands”.
As per AWPA study, currently almost 60% of the Australian workforce has post secondary qualifications and that could increase to 75% by 2025. In contrast, 70% of the Canadian workforce has post secondary qualifications already, compared to 65% five years ago and 62% ten years ago, both ratios higher than where Australia’s is today. The higher skills base is reflective of the changing structure of the economy and its convergence into a knowledge-based economy.
While other nations are charting their paths to increase skills levels, Canada needs policies and approaches to maintain its position ahead of the curve.
Encouragingly, the skills level and educational attainment of workers in Canada’s digital economy (DE) is significantly higher than the rest of the Canadian workforce. 91% of these workers hold post secondary qualifications, while 50% of the workers hold at least a bachelor’s degree. While other nations are charting their paths to increase skills levels, Canada needs policies and approaches to maintain its position ahead of the curve. Canada’s growth will be constrained if we do not emphasize on meeting the continuing strong demand for skills.
AWPA’s report highlights what Canada’s technology and labour market gurus have predicted. Yet, for Canada, there is much to learn and reflect on from the AWPA study.
ICTC’s extensive consultation with the DE stakeholders reveals that skills requirements for high-skilled DE occupations are continually changing and becoming substantially specialized. As noted earlier, skills component of the workforce cannot be substituted by adding more labour force. Thus, if the DE occupations were to be distributed into high, moderate, and low skilled categories based on required training and educational attainment a vivid picture of the Canadian landscape becomes visible.
One of the key challenges addressed in the AWPA paper is the need to lift productivity, which has been weak over the last decade, notwithstanding some recent improvement. Better use of the skills and abilities of the workforce is a key factor in improving Australia’s productivity – something Canada should also aim toward.
As an early leader in the global digital economy, Canada now finds itself on the bottom rung in productivity and innovation among OECD countries. If Canada were to, however overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities to develop public-private collaborations…. Invest in skills to increase efficiency and productivity to produce knowledge-intensive, high-value-added goods and services…. Strengthen emerging and growing sectors of the economy… Then Canada will be well positioned to increase productivity.
Empowering tomorrow’s workforce is vital for competitiveness of an economy that is connected globally.
Leverage the digital economy to be a catalyst for innovation, jobs and economic growth…. Broaden the use of technology, increase innovation in the workplace, promote and invest in research and development, and commercialization…
Empowering tomorrow’s workforce is vital for competitiveness of an economy that is connected globally. Strong Canadian skills policies will help Canada realize its aspiration to be among the top digital and knowledge economies in the world.
What are your thoughts on Canada’s skills and workforce development-related parallels with Australia? Let us know.