Skills shortages top Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s list of barriers

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday revealed that, for a consecutive year, skill shortages topped its ‘Top 10 Barriers to Competitiveness’ list.

The Canadian Chamber’s number one issue last year, as identified by the membership, was Canada’s skills shortage.

In announcing the 2013 barriers, Canadian Chamber president and CEO Perrin Beatty said, last year, which was the first year the Chamber undertook the initiative to highlight Canada’s barriers to competitiveness, was a success, especially with regard to the skills shortage issue.

“We held consultations across Canada that enabled us to gain a better grasp on this critical issue. We were very satisfied to hear the Prime Minister [Stephen Harper] also identify the skills shortage as the major challenge facing our country,” Beatty said, adding the Canadian Chamber intends to maintain its focus on skills this year.

The Canadian Chamber undertook this initiative last year to draw attention to the barriers that are holding back Canada’s progress and to urge all levels of government to act more swiftly to improve the country’s ability to compete globally.

“Our members recorded a major victory when our appeal for change to the regulatory processes around natural resource projects was overwhelmingly accepted by the government. For a country so dependent on the success of natural resource projects, implementing a more efficient process is a huge contributor to competitiveness,” said Beatty.

He was referring to Canada’s streamlining last year of the review process for significant economic projects, such as pipelines and mines, in a bid to compete with other resource-rich countries.

The Chamber said governments and businesses across regions and sectors would need to work cooperatively and aggressively to address skills shortages, particularly in four critical areas, namely upskilling, immigration policies, education-employment alignment and Aboriginal education and workforce development.

“Labour market studies show that mining will need to hire 10 000 workers every year for the next ten years. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is right to identify skills shortages as the top issue facing the country and we all need to work together – industry, governments, educational institutions, First Nations and other partners – to ensure Canada’s economy does not falter because we fail to fill the jobs our economy has to offer,” Mining Association of Canada president and CEO Pierre Gratton said.

Second to the skills shortage is barriers to world markets for Canadian energy products. The Chamber said the overseas market would be of critical economic importance to Canada in the twenty-first century. Federal, territorial and provincial governments must act now to support the development of the infrastructure and relationships needed to realise the full potential of Canada’s energy endowment, or risk missing out on an historic opportunity.

“Canada’s competitiveness is pivoting from an almost sole reliance on the US market to one with much more global diversity. A key enabler for Canada’s market diversity is the necessary infrastructure to access those global markets,” Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers president and CEO David Collyer said.

The other three significant barriers to competitiveness were identified to be inadequate workforce productivity, inadequate public infrastructure planning and Canada’s tax complexity and structure.

“We have a choice. Either we act urgently to improve our competitiveness or we will pay a high price in lost jobs and prosperity. Working together, we’ve started to address these problems over the past year. The challenge for 2013 is to build on this progress and start closing the gap between Canadian businesses and our international competitors,” Beatty warned.

Henry Lazenby

February 12′ 2013



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