The Skills Shortage

The result of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, 2003 Skilled Trades Survey (2) reported the three top causes of shortages of skilled trades’ workers and apprentices as:

  • Skilled trades are not viewed as desirable professions by the general public;
  • Education counsellors and systems do not focus on and/or promote skilled trades; and
  • Difficulty in attracting apprentices and skilled workers.

Another factor that largely impacts the predicted shortages is the aging population of skilled workers across the Nation. Ontario is not excluded from these effects. By 2001, nearly one-fifth of baby boomers [those born between 1947 and 1966] were 61 years old and the proportion of the population 65 or older began to expand rapidly (3). According to a 2001 Conference Board of Canada report, various sectors such as construction, technology, manufacturing, health care and financial services are already experiencing skill shortages, some due to retiring boomers. One survey of medium to large size companies reported an 83% shortage of skilled labour and more than 60% expected the shortages to become more pronounced in the future.

Migrant workers have traditionally been employed in farming and as domestics in Canada; they have filled these jobs because Canadians could not be recruited for these positions. If Canadians cannot be found to fill highly skilled trades occupations, then foreign workers will be utilized to fill these positions. This situation would place the Canadian who lacks the qualifications for the trade in a disadvantaged position. Often, employers of groups of new immigrants or migrant workers are seeking to obtain the most productivity at the least expense for labour.