Willis News

Bridging the Gap Between Education and Enterprise

June 7, 2013

Right Person for the Right Job

By: Serge Buy

Article originally published in the Canada Business Journal June/2013

Why is it so Hard?

In every corner of Canada, across many industries, we are seeing the same thing: employers are having a hard time finding the right employee for the right job. But why is this so hard?  With unemployment rates soaring in parts of our country – and as high as 12.4 per cent in some regions – you would think it would be easy to find employees to fill holes in our workforce.
But this isn’t the case.
More and more we are seeing companies forced to move to other locations, bring in temporary foreign workers or close their doors altogether.
Taking a closer look at the situation, we see even more well-educated young people that are underemployed or unemployed. While many of them may have impressive degrees in lofty subjects, they lack the specific training to get the jobs that are available right now.
Since the 1800s, career colleges in Canada have been able to offer training to people in these situations, in order to get them back in the workforce sooner with a better job and higher pay. These institutions are regulated by the provincial governments and adhere to rigorous standards. Many of the programs are accredited by professional associations like the Canadian Medical Association and the Law Society of Upper Canada.
These institutions train students for jobs that exist today.  Unlike public colleges, private career colleges are able to adapt their programs quickly, in order to meet rapidly-changing demands in the labour market.
For example, Saskatoon Business College is recognized a growing need in the Saskatchewan mining industry for companies to have their office and administrative staff specially trained in the specifics of their industry. As a result, they worked with representatives from the mining industry and developed a Mining Industry Business Specialist program with emphasis on the employment requirements identified by mining industry companies.
Examples like this can be found throughout the career college sector. However, more can be done to encourage partnerships between employers and educators, like career colleges.
A Step Toward Fixing the Problem
The federal government has identified the skilled jobs gap.  Budget 2013 – often called the “Skilled Jobs Budget” – takes some important steps toward fixing this problem.
Led by Human Resources and Skills Development Minister the Honourable Diane Finley, P.C., M.P., the government has created the Canada Job Grant. While specific details are still being developed, it is clear that the government is focused on a solution to the impending skilled jobs shortage.
This new initiative, worth $500 million per year, will encourage employers to invest in the training of employees for jobs they have available now. They will see their investments matched by the federal and provincial governments.
But why should businesses care to invest their money into the training of employees?  It’s simple: in order to ensure that the employees have the right training to fill those particular jobs immediately. This means that some businesses will not need to relocate, look for temporary foreign workers or close entirely. If businesses are able to communicate their specific needs directly with the educational institution, it only further insures that the employers will be satisfied with the skills of the employees.
Bringing businesses into the fold, to be part of the solution, is a key component of the success of this new initiative. It is vital that businesses be part of the solution and have a say in the type of training to be provided to fill the jobs that they need filled. After all, they are the ones with a lot at stake every time they hire an employee –minimizing risk can pay off in substantial ways over time for businesses.
It is notable that career colleges were selected by at least 3 government representatives to announce this new program: Minister Steven Blaney in Ottawa, Minister of State Alice Wong in British Columbia, and Parliamentary Secretary Kellie Leitch in Newfoundland and Labrador.
This should not be a surprise – career colleges in Canada have been partnering with businesses to provide new employees the skills they need since the nineteenth century.
Filling the Employment Gap
Encouraging partnerships between business and educators is essential. Career colleges have been partnering with employers for many years, and there are many examples across Canada:
Fortinet (a Fortune 500 company) opened an office in Ottawa and quickly realized that it needed to recruit new employees but could not find people with the right training.
They partnered with a career college (Willis College – opened in 1896) and worked with it to develop a specific training program that fits their needs and provided students the skills for future employment as well.
Gamma-Dynacare Medical Laboratories worked with Herzing College in Winnipeg to ensure that graduates from Herzing’s Medical Laboratory Assistant Program meet the needs of their company.
The result?
The great majority of graduates go on to work for Gamma-Dynacare in locations throughout Canada.
Academy Canada in Newfoundland and Labrador partnered with Holson Forest Products, the Voicey’s Bay Nickel Company and other resource-based companies to provide specialized skilled trades training to unemployed workers in order to help them gain employment in these companies.
In all of the instances, it should be clear: Businesses had a need. Career colleges had a solution.
With the support of the government’s new Canada Job Grant, businesses will be able to be involved in this process to an even greater degree.
Canadian Forum Linking Employers and Educators
The National Association of Career Colleges (NACC) has recently announced a new initiative, that being the creation of the Canadian Forum Linking Employers and Educators.  This tool is designed to bridge the gap between businesses and career colleges, in order to better facilitate partnerships. These partnerships will hopefully lead to employers communicating their specific training needs directly to the educators, who will train the students to fill these roles quickly and effectively.
The Forum will be made up of representatives from Canada’s business and career college sectors. Businesses can expect to hear more about the Forum in the months to come.
By working together, we can ensure that the skills gap does not continue and that our labour force better meets the needs of employers. As a result, our unemployment rate lowers.
But for Now…
While we may not see the details of the Canada Job Grant until 2014, businesses should still move forward to forge important relationships with career colleges in order to continue to ensure that they have skilled employees and that their businesses continue to grow.
From the point of view of businesses, partnerships like these can be ground-breaking. By communicating needs directly to the educators (career colleges), businesses can be guaranteed that a worker is properly skilled for the tasks they need to perform. Additionally, under the Canada Job Grant, businesses will have the financial support of two levels of government, making this investment pay off in spades.
While the Canadian economy continues to look for ways to better train our future generation, it is key that the two major players – businesses and educators – understand one another.
We hope that the Canadian Forum Linking Employers and Educators is a step toward this.


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