Western Canada, and the people who live here, fail to realize their full economic potential because of problems with the supply and demand of workforce skills.
There is a shortage of people with needed technical skills, even in provinces hit hard by low energy prices. There is also a shortage of willing and competent people for some lower-skilled, lower-paid jobs. At the same time, shortfalls in literacy and numeracy skills in the workforce creates a deficit in decision-making capacity, critical thinking and high performance team work. In some cases, people with great skills are not matched to jobs that would use them. Education systems, too, are not always successful in helping people acquire the necessary skills. All of these factors result in an economy and a workforce that are not as productive as they could be.
When the labour market is working efficiently, everyone wins. There are few people without jobs and few jobs without people. One way to move the labour market towards efficiency is to train, assess and credential people based on the competencies they have, or are developing.
Competency frameworks identify the pathways through which competencies (the skills and knowledge required to do a particular task) combine into particular occupations. The competency-based approach is quickly becoming a major workforce development tool around the world. The West needs to adopt this approach.
When we train, assess and credential competencies:
> Employers find the right people, with the right skills, in the right places, at the right time.
> People gain the skills employers are looking for, prove they have these skills, and find jobs that meet their needs and support them to fulfil their dreams.
> Education systems, while fulfilling a broader mandate, respond better to the needs of students to develop skills for success in the workforce.
The Centre for Human Capital Policy seeks solutions
Our 2016 workplan is a bold mix of projects and stakeholder engagement opportunities. Our focus is to build on, and broaden the impact of, work that promotes a competency-based approach to workforce development. To accomplish these goals, the Centre seeks the support of patrons who share our vision.
Employment and training for First Nations people
The Centres for Human Capital Policy and Natural Resources Policy are collaborating on a project designed to connect Aboriginal people and businesses with work in the natural resources sector. The project will better match the competencies held by people in communities with the requirements of local employers. We will continue to work with the Saskatchewan First Nations Natural Resources Centre of Excellence to find practical ways to address policy barriers to Aboriginal employment.
Adult Basic Education in western Canada
Adult Basic Education (ABE) offers assistance to learn or upgrade basic skills, predominantly for people who are under- represented in the workforce. A research paper will look at how ABE is offered in the West, identify issues in the provincial ABE systems, and make recommendations for improvement. The paper will be of interest to the advanced education and labour market ministries in each province as well as the agencies and post-secondary institutions that provide ABE.
Potential new projects (subject to funding)
21st Century competencies for youth
Young people experience stress as they transition from high school to work and post-secondary schooling. An awareness of the competencies required by employers, and what competencies they have and are developing as individuals could help to alleviate some of this stress. This project will examine how youth serving agencies across Canada can embed a framework of 21st century competencies into their programming. The case will be made for why this move is the right one, and what this means for the agencies involved. Deliverables include an overview of 21st century competency frameworks, recommendations as to which competencies could be incorporated into programs, and a playbook that outlines what this might entail.
This work will be of primary interest to youth service agencies, education ministries, school boards, professional teacher associations and industry associations. Related policy implications for the funding and development of programs targeted to youth, especially disadvantaged youth, will be addressed.
Competency frameworks for the Canadian manufacturing sector
The manufacturing sector is already moving towards a competency-based model of education, training, assessment and certification of its workforce. Through this project, we will examine the ongoing work in some manufacturing firms as they make this transition and document ways to replicate and scale it to other firms. The work has policy implications for advanced education, industry and labour ministries across Canada. As conveners and disseminators of the products of this work, the Canada West Foundation would make recommendations to decision-makers in industry and in governments.
Expanding this project to include other sectors is a possibility where sufficient interest exists.
Competency frameworks for non-regulated occupations
Almost 85 per cent of the workforce is employed in non- regulated jobs. We have shown how competency frameworks will improve the development of the regulated trades. This paper will apply the same thinking to non-regulated occupations and explain visually how competency frameworks can work across the workforce.
Other projects and research as opportunities arise.