Greater Sudbury Employment Situation Does Not Paint A Bright Picture For The Future

Special Report By 
Robert Kirwan
Valley East Today

Study after study, both here and abroad, are proving that the lack of skilled labour is a concern for businesses and governments globally. It is reaching a critical stage and may trigger a huge increase in inflation as wages skyrocket in an attempt to attract the most qualified and skilled people. It is purely a matter of supply and demand.

Yet, despite the cries from around the world for more skilled employees, and despite the booming economy reported in most major cities, Sudbury appears to be heading in the opposite direction.

The information from the two surveys below point out another startling fact. Across North America and Asia, the top shortage is of sales representatives. And employers say they are not just looking for bodies. They say they want experienced salespeople who know their respective industries.

International Survey Results
Canada has one of the most serious shortages of skilled labour in the industrial world, international survey results released today suggest.

Two-thirds 66 per cent of employers in Canada report having difficulty filling positions due to a lack of suitable talent, well above the 40 per cent of employers globally, according to the survey last month of nearly 33,000 employers across 23 countries and regions, including 1,000 employers here.

Only Mexico, where 78 per cent of employers say they are facing shortages of skilled workers, has a higher proportion, according to the survey by Manpower Inc., an international employment services company. Japan has the third-highest skills shortage, reported by 58 per cent of employers, while 44 per cent of U.S. employers say they are facing such shortages.

In Canada, the survey found the positions employers are having the most difficulty filling are for sales representatives, followed in order by customer service representatives, engineers, drivers, mechanics, labourers, chefs or cooks, electricians, skilled trades and nurses.

Among the actions required here to address these shortages in the coming years are closer links between employers and educators, increased investment in training, including for existing employees, and more flexible use of talent, the report said.

Doyle added that with its relatively high living standards Canada is in good position to compete with other countries for skilled immigrants.

Here and globally, the shortage is due to a combination of factors, including demographic shifts due to aging and low birth rates, inadequate education programs and the effects of globalization, including outsourcing and offshoring.

The Canadian survey results are considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, the global results within 4.1 points.
Canadian Labour and Business Centre
Earlier this month, another survey, by the Canadian Labour and Business Centre, revealed that skills shortages have become a top concern in Canada for both business and labour leaders, especially in the rapidly expanding economies of the westernmost provinces. It found that the skills shortage has surpassed tax cuts as the No. 1 issue for private-sector employers in British Columbia, and is the No. 2 issue for them in Alberta.

Concerns about skills shortages prompted all parties in the last election campaign to promise more support for training.

The new Conservative governments campaign commitments include a $1,000 grant to help apprentices cover workplace costs, a $500 tools tax deduction for existing tradespeople and a tax credit of up to $2,000 for businesses that establish new apprenticeship positions.
Despite the above, Ron Lange, an economic professor from Laurentian University who studies Sudbury labour force developments and trends, states that Sudbury appears to have a strange combination of high unemployment and shortages of labour.

Lange concluded that one of the main reasons for the above phenomena is that Sudbury's public service and institutional sector declined by 1400 jobs in 2005. Many of these positions were paying healthy salaries, and as such, their loss is being felt throughout the economy.

The decline in total employment in Sudbury was due mainly to a huge drop in the institutional and public-services sector, consisting of health/social assistance, education, public administration, and information/culture/recreation, Lange wrote on the Institute of Northern Ontario Research and Development website.

But while looking over 2005 data, the Laurentian University professor noticed that while almost every other major city across Canada had employment growth, Sudbury did not.

Lange said many people are discouraged from the lack of job opportunities in the city and have dropped out of the labour market all together. So,
Sudbury s unemployment rate is probably closer to 10 per cent.

But statistics by Human Resources Development Canada from the third quarter of 2005, showed there were job vacancies in the business administration (538), trades and transport (936), and sales and service (1,357) sectors.

Local post-secondary institutions seem to have placed a greater focus on the skilled trades, yet there remains a labour shortage, Lange said.

There are many underlying reasons why students are leaving Sudbury instead of trying to fill vacancies. The two reports in this article offer some of those reasons. While post-secondary institutions place more focus on the skilled trades, unless a person develops an interest in these fields while they are in their developmental stages of growth, namely in elementary school, you won't be able to "manufacture the interest" after high school just so they can receive a pay cheque.

Let's face it, our schools are producing graduates who are well-equipped to work in well-paying government jobs that require university or college diplomas. They are not coming out prepared or encouraged to work in business, sales, customer service or trades.

While it is nice to put funding into post-secondary institutions and grants to help pay tuitions, the reality of the matter is that most of the graduates are still going to come out with a diploma, a huge debt, and poor job prospects.

Just keep in mind, as an editorial comment to close off this feature, "If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always got."


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