Skilled workers drive the economy

Economic meltdown factors are financial and skills - we can change the latter

The prospect of economic meltdown indicates to me two major but separate problems. The first is financial and we can do nothing about that. However, we can concentrate on the second, and that is to change the way we operate in the business community to improve skills, diversity and productivity and save our own necks.

Using their statistics, the government has decided that there are too many people unemployed. So following the lead from the U.S., they are pouring huge amounts of money that we haven’t got into stimulus packages, creating overtime possibilities for large construction organizations. Will it help create more jobs? Doubtful. These types of businesses usually need skilled workers and Canada is desperately short of skilled workers. Will it change or help the 15 per cent of unemployed 18-to-24-year olds? Almost certainly not. And, when the money runs out, what then? There is nothing I have heard that suggests to me any real understanding, by either government of the difficulties faced by the people in the workplace, and what changes need to be made.

I listen to lots of commentary on business and the economy, and I have come to the conclusion that we need a “Dragon” to take charge of the business community. Mark Carney advises the government on finance. The business community and its destiny are seemingly of no concern. Regardless, Canada is, without a doubt, in an ideal position to become a leader of major world players. We are blessed with having avoided the financial crisis which others are in, we also have an abundance of natural and human resources, but we have to work harder, much harder, at becoming best. We need a leader with a plan, someone who knows where we should be going and how to get there. The workplace is just about coasting. Coasting to me means going downhill, eventually we will reach the bottom and stop, unless we do something really positive to turn it around.

One thing we could do, that we could all be part of, is to introduce proper work training for all our young people. To do that we have to dispense with the outdated myth that work skills are learned in college. Thirty-plus years ago, the computer generation needed college-based skills, that era has gone. Right now, the need it to train our talented young people on the job in order that our existing industries can diversify and expand. We have to grow from within. That is where the jobs are now, that is where they will be tomorrow and in the future. It is our work skills that will push us ahead of the pack when the turnaround comes.

From the mass of information on the government websites, it is easy to find that only four out of every 100 school-leavers do apprenticeships and obtain red seal trade certificates each year. Having done that for 30 years and now in the midst of a demographic change, is it any wonder we are struggling to find skilled tradespeople? The skilled people leaving the workforce now have about 45 years experience. They, according to the government, are supposed to be replaced by kids with a few months at college. A 40 per cent success rate is poor by any standard, but four per cent is ludicrous. Why are our business leaders so indifferent? Why do they put up with such nonsense when their business future is at stake? It’s time to say, enough is enough.

Skilled workers are the engine that drives the economy. We will be going nowhere unless, and until, we understand the simple lessons on what we need to do to survive, then take the necessary steps to do it. First, the need is to provide a job with work skills training for every school-leaver. That training to be done in the workplace on the job, working with skilled people, getting the mature guidance most young people need at that age. It is not rocket science and is very do-able and would cost a fraction of the present cost.

I am concerned because after two years of lobbying, I am virtually alone in my assessment of this situation. Please somebody tell me I am wrong and explain why. I’ll be happy to apologize for wasting a lot of people’s time. If not, and you agree with me, help, no, help yourself. You know the people who are running this show.


Roy Humphrey, Vernon