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Skilled Trades – The Great Canadian Job Rush

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The shortage of skilled labour in Canada has been deemed the most important challenge for Canadian business leaders, according to a recent study. 

The C-Suite survey of Canadian executives reports that 84 per cent of respondents are having a difficult time finding qualified and available skilled workers to staff their businesses. According to the surveyed executives, licensed tradespeople are the hardest employees to find, especially in the service sector and manufacturing and resource industries. With 50 per cent of the current skilled trade work force retiring in the next 15 years, Canadian businesses are calling on the government to make Canada’s human resource challenge a top priority.

One government response to the demand for skilled labourers has been to encourage more people to enroll in vocational training. Whether Canadian born, landed immigrant, or soon-to-be Canadian immigrant, an individual with skilled trade education is highly employable in the current Canadian economy. Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC) recently launched the Apprenticeship Incentive Grant, designed to help apprentices in skilled trades offset the costs of their tools, tuition, and travel. It also introduced the Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit – a monetary incentive for employers who engage apprentices. The 2006 budget allocated $500 million over two years to support skilled tradespeople in Canada.

Additionally, the 2007 federal budget committed $50.5 million over two years to make improvements to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Canadian businesses have been using the program extensively to fill the abundance of available jobs for skilled tradespeople in Canada. The improvements involve streamlining requirements, improving protection of foreign workers, and reducing the amount of time it takes to respond to regional skill and labour shortages.

Despite these temporary remedies for filling skill shortages, representatives of labour-tight skilled trade industries are not satisfied. The construction industry, for instance, which has been suffering from severe labour shortages and is bracing for even greater challenges in the coming years, is calling on the government to make fundamental changes to Canadian immigration admittance policies. “The issue is the points system puts more of an emphasis on post-secondary education than tangible skills,” explains Jeff Morrison of the Canadian Construction Association, who has been vocal about a need for immigration reform.

These tangible skills are most in need in Western Canada, where the booming economy is acting as a magnet for skilled labourers, not only from around the world, but also from the rest Canada. Consequently, there are skill shortages from coast to coast. For skilled labourers, there has never been a better time to find work in Canada.