I’ve been doing some work on skills shortages recently, and came across this adorable little document from HRSDC. It’s their employment projections for the period 2011-2021, and its conclusion is pretty unequivocal: we do not have major skills shortages in Canada, nor are we going to have them anytime soon.
This prediction is based on something called COPS – the Canadian Occupation Projection System. COPS makes long-term employment projections on an occupation-by-occupation basis, based on the major components of supply (new school leavers, immigration) and demand (retirements, changes in demand). Most of those factors can be foreseen fairly easily, but change in demand by industry can be hard to get right on a year-by-year basis. As a result, while COPS is good at predicting this like, “we’ll need more oil and gas workers because hydrocarbons are rising in price”, it’s useless at predicting what the price of oil will be in any given year (which means it can’t predict short-term spikes), or at working out the impact of new technologies (e.g. fracking) which might have long-term consequences for specific markets. It’s basically a “best guess” given current knowledge of technological and economic trends.
And this best guess says that only five of the 144 occupational groups are in chronic shortage – that is, they are currently in shortage and projected to remain so for another decade. Exactly none of these occupations are in the trades. Zero. Bupkis. What is in high demand are managers of tradespeople (especially oil and gas, but also more generally in construction), but that’s quite different. What’s needed to solve this are not more apprenticeships, but more of the kinds of programs increasingly popping up in polytechnics, like the degree in construction management offered by Red River College.
The other four occupations in chronic shortage? i) Doctors and dentists, ii) Nursing managers and RNs, managers of health, iii) Managers of health, education and community services (Hey! Justification for administrative salary increases!), and iv) Human Resources and other business services. If you look at them in terms of total expected employment shortfalls, one gets an even clearer picture of where the real shortages are:
Distribution of Employment Shortfalls in the Five Occupational Groups Experiencing the Greatest Skills Shortages
Fully half of the positions expected to be in shortage, among the five highest-demand occupations, are for front-line health workers. Roughly forty percent – the ones in business services and health & education management – are office jobs, mostly requiring degrees in business or social sciences.
Remember, this is from HRSDC. It’s the official government projection. So why did federal government spend the run-up to the budget talking-up trades rather than health? Do they not read their own stuff? Or is there some other factor at work here?