Parliamentary report challenges ‘skills gap myth’

A Canadian government agency is causing a stir amongst employ groups and unions by claiming that the national skills gap has been over exaggerated.

While many employers are lamenting a national skills gap, the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) is throwing doubt on whether the shortage is in fact a widespread problem.
In a new report, titled Labour Market Assessment 2014, Canada’s budget watchdog  says there is “little evidence” to back up those claims.
 “There is little evidence to suggest a national labour shortage exists in Canada, although there appear to be regional and sectoral pockets of labour market tightness,” the report says.
The report states “some skills mismatch is normal, there is no evidence in support of a more acute national skills mismatch today than prior to the 2008-09 recession.”
A number of government programs, including the Canada Jobs Grant, are aimed directly at addressing the skills mismatch, with other changes aimed at improving the system for recruiting foreign temporary workers to fill vacant jobs.
Alexandra Fortier, a spokesperson for Labour and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, said the report conclusions don’t negate the fact that there were shortages
“The lack of evidence of a national labour shortage or skills mismatch in Canada does not rule out regional- and sector-specific labour shortages or skills mismatches,” Fortier said in an email.
“There is a paradox of too many Canadians without jobs in an economy of too many jobs without workers.”
Canadian Construction Association president Michael Atkinson said these types of reports “are all looking backwards. They’re not looking into the future.”
He cited a BuildForce Canada report indicating the construction sector will need 300,000 additional workers by 2020.
“That’s just to replace those who will be retiring in that year, and keep pace with demand.”

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