By Udo Jahn
June 18, 2014 - If you’re exposed to any media (newspaper, television, online, etc.) you can’t help hearing the prediction that there’ll be a lack of skilled employees in the future. After writing about this issue in the past, I received quite a few emails: many were very positive and others directed me to similar articles on the same subject.
Usually the stories we hear are meant to be dire predictions of our future. Yet when you look around and see a large number of unemployed people, you can’t help but wonder why there’d be a lack of people for future jobs. But what’s key here is the word “skilled.”
One of the articles talked about what the writer refers to as a “skills gap.” There are approximately 1.3 million unemployed Canadians and 200,000 unfilled jobs. This indicates that none of the 1.3 million people are qualified for these jobs. I find this very distressing.
One article went on to say, “business owners often admit that they are in the business of making money, not training workers.” What seems to be addressed as a possible solution is to increase immigration of those who are presently trained and skilled. I, myself, am an immigrant but this solution is over the top. What are we thinking? We are ignoring the real problem, which is the lack of proper training within our own country.
I predict employers will continue looking for their future employees by advertising in the media and online. And I compare this strategy to fishermen fishing in the same spot, which results in terrible fishing because the area becomes overfished: resulting in not enough fish to supply the demand.
The probability of finding a good, skilled employee through the usual methods will be very unlikely. So how are we going to find our future “skilled” employees? Many people want the government to do more. Others don’t even recognize that this will be an issue. It’s interesting to note that everyone seems to find this a complex problem with very few solutions.
I have spent time speaking with my peers about “skilled” labour shortages and we believe the problem has a very easy solution. It’s time for businesses to invest in the younger generation. We need to create paid training positions to train our future employees.
I can already see your eyes rolling. Your first concern is “as soon as I finish training them they will be snapped up by other employers.” This concern quickly puts up a defensive wall, and it is likely the reason we have a lack of skilled labour in the first place. The problem is that we look at this as a one-time occurrence instead of an ongoing commitment as part of business.
Employees are, in fact, loyal to the people who train them. This is not to say that if you train them they’ll be there for their entire life, but if you’re constantly training new people then you’ll create a stable workforce.
Your next concern, “but this training is going to cost a fortune.” Instead of looking at this as a cost, employers need to look at training as an investment in capital (just as you invest capital in equipment, you need capital investment in your people). This outlay should be part of your budget each year, and I predict that if you don’t start setting aside dollars for this investment in human capital, you’ll be left behind when it comes to a skilled workforce in the future.
Some people ask about why the government is not leading this. I believe that the government is investing in trades education and now it’s up to employers like us to do our part. Education gives you knowledge, but not the hands-on experience that only industry can provide.
Long-term planning requires businesses to invest in employee training, so they have the ability to meet job demands of the future. If businesses invested more in training, Canada would not have a skills shortage and unemployment rates would be lower.
Sounds like a simple plan, doesn’t it? Well, I think Ronald Reagan said it best, “They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong.”
Udo Jahn is the General Manager of Modern Engineering located in Delta, B.C. The company is best known for taking the most complex precision machining problems, and delivering machined parts that are both exact and on-time. Find out more about Modern Engineering by visiting their website at www.moderneng.com.