AED members are faced with the dual threat of an aging workforce and a shortage of skilled laborers. The heavy equipment industry is in a continuous technological upshift, with increased complexity of systems, onboard computers, remote controls and sensors. The skills shortage in this sector has translated into lost economic opportunity. A major theme of the 2017 federal budget was recognition that Canada needs to train or retrain workers at various stages of their careers in the skilled trades so that they can be part of today’s economy and the economy of the future. Here is a look at the 2017 budget, which outlines Canada’s response to the shortage of skilled laborers in our sector.
Investing in the future
The 2017 budget takes a multifaceted approach to equipping the unemployed, underemployed, and historically underrepresented populations by creating incentives and removing roadblocks to well-paying jobs. The budget recognizes that the fate of the middle class depends on fostering a skilled workforce that can evolve to meet the challenges of tomorrow’s workplace. Canada currently spends roughly $3 billion annually through Labour Market Transfer Agreements designed to administer skills training and employment support to provinces and territories. The 2017 budget proposes an increase to this amount by $2.7 billion over six years, to expand these agreements and help more Canadians access training and employment assistance.
Canada’s aging population
Canada’s 2017 federal budget sets the foundation for a culture of lifetime learning that will equip aging Canadians with the skills they need to be competitive in our ever-evolving industry. Canada’s population now has more people age 65 and over than there are people under the age of 15. The budget calls for the country to tap into the wisdom and experience of these seniors by better supporting their participation in the workforce. The government intends to expand eligibility for Canada Student Grants for students attending school part-time to encourage adult workers to upgrade their skills.
Shaping the workforce to reflect Canada’s diverse population
In addressing Canada’s shortage of skilled workers, the government is turning to historically underrepresented populations to fill the demand for talent. The indigenous people of Canada will see a $50 million increase in the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy (ASETS) and will be able to access the Canada Student Loans Program without Canadian citizenship. Canada’s women struggling to balance work and family life will find some relief in the 2017 budget, as federally regulated employees will gain the right to request flexible work arrangements, including flexible start and finish times and the ability to work from home.
To attract international talent, the 2017 budget dedicates $279.8 million over five years to support the implementation of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Under the Global Skills Strategy, visas and work permits will be processed in two weeks or less. The Global Skills Strategy also introduces a new work permit exemption for temporary work terms. The short-term work permit exemption will apply for work terms of less than 30 days in a year and will be used for inter-company work exchanges and entrance for temporary expertise.
Crafting employment insurance to spark growth
Proposed changes to existing employment insurance (EI) policies were made by the 2017 budget to address certain shortcomings. For example, unemployed workers currently receiving EI benefits lose their eligibility for those benefits if they return to school or undertake training for a new job. The 2017 budget changes this policy and provides $132 million over four years to allow unemployed Canadians to pursue self-funded training while receiving EI benefits. Additional EI modifications include the distribution of EI benefits to those caring for seriously ill family members, allowing women to claim EI maternity benefits up to 12 weeks before their due date, and making EI parental benefits more flexible.
AED supports the Canadian government’s enhancement of training opportunities to aid Canadian businesses. It is our responsibility to make sure such social programs and funding reach the heavy equipment industry. You can count on CED Magazine to cover the skilled laborer shortage and the innovative solutions being offered to remedy this problem.