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Educators, industry and government agree greater focus on colleges, training and apprenticeships will help reduce skills gap

Educators, industry and government agree greater focus on colleges,
training and apprenticeships will help reduce skills gap

nr skills summit2013Ottawa, ON, October 25, 2013 – The Association of Canadian Community Colleges has announced it is seeking closer alignment with the country’s business communities and industry sector associations to support jobs and growth. The move is part of efforts to bridge Canada’s very real skills gap and ensure students and parents have the complete picture of how to start a great career.

Presidents and CEOs from colleges, institutes, and polytechnics across Canada came together for a National Skills Summit to identify solutions for greater access to education, including Indigenous learners, and to connect Canadians to the right skills for employment. Despite recent suggestions the skills gap may be overstated, business leaders and senior executives attending the summit spoke of their realities and are keenly aware of the urgency around skills and training in Canada.

“About 90 percent of college grads find employment within six months of graduation, yet we continue to see people in the skilled trades not getting the respect they deserve,” said ACCC President, Denise Amyot. “We are strengthening ties with employers and industry so that students and their parents start to consider the lucrative careers available through college education.”

Federal Employment Minister, Jason Kenney, says colleges provide “relevant skills for the labour market of today and the future,” while the head of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce notes the role of colleges “has never been more vital.” The Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Federation of Independent Business echo these sentiments and agree colleges can really contribute towards reducing the skills gap.

ACCC members will strengthen existing partnerships and seek new ones with industry and social organizations to support programs that continue to give students real-world job experience. To support this engagement the Association will re-establish an employer coalition; promote its work on pathways and transferability; leverage its membership on committees of other related organizations; and will name three new external directors to its Board of Directors.

“Whether it’s aerospace, construction, petroleum, forestry, tourism, manufacturing, exporting, or science and technology, each sector reports needing our members’ students, so we must all work together,” said Amyot. “It’s also crucial for parents, students, high school guidance counselors and others to recognize there are many options for post-secondary education and they’re all valid.”

ACCC is the national and international voice of Canada’s publicly funded colleges, institutes and polytechnics, with 1.5 million learners of all ages and backgrounds at campuses serving over 3,000 urban, rural and remote communities.

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Resources: 2013 National Skills Summit Outcomes

For more information:

Shawn Dearn
Director of Communications, ACCC
613-746-2222 Ext. 3123
Twitter: @ACCC_Comms

ASSOCIATION OF CANADIAN COMMUNITY COLLEGES
NATIONAL SKILLS SUMMIT
(October 20-21, 2013)
SUMMARY

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Background:

The National Skills Summit, organized and hosted by the Association of Canadian Community Colleges, assembled senior leaders across economic and social sectors, some key government leaders and CEOs of ACCC member colleges, institutes and polytechnics who shared their perspectives on the challenges, successes and opportunities for go-forward actions to address the skills shortages in Canada.

Many sectors in Canada are identifying labour supply challenges. For some like the Canadian Construction Association, the need for skilled employees is unprecedented. If the skills shortage is not addressed, the impact on Canada’s economy will be severe. The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters reports 40% of their members are not meeting sales demands due to the shortage of workers.

In addition, technology has changed the workplace and employers are seeking highly skilled individuals.  Many currently employed need reskilling and vulnerable groups like indigenous peoples, disadvantaged youth and person with disabilities require essential skills.  Immigrants also need support systems, training programs and services to help with their integration in society.

Unless mitigating measures are adopted, in less than 10 years, employers will not find the qualified candidates for 1.5 million available jobs. Canada is facing an innovation gap and a prosperity crisis.

A priority for Canada’s colleges, institutes and polytechnics is collaborating with industry, social organizations and governments to overcome mutual challenges and build on successes.

Key messages:

Labour market information is critical for trainers, employers, students and parents. The lack of current labour market information in some sectors is compounding the issue. We must find a way to enhance our capacity to collect and share labour market data.

There is a need for social and economic inclusion of all groups:  immigrants, indigenous peoples, women, disadvantaged youth, persons with disabilities-all need better access to post-secondary education.

Enhancements are needed for the apprenticeship system to improve the completion rates and reduce mobility barriers.

A competency-based approach is recommended to ensure that jobs are not based solely on credentials, but rather the skills needed in the workplace.

Essential skills are important and need to find their way into training programs.

More and enhanced information needs to make its way to the elementary and secondary school systems to promote careers through studies at colleges, institutes and polytechnics. Youth need to get the right information.

The skills gaps are an issue for all provinces and territories and we must work on short terms as well as long term action.

Collaboration is key: stakeholders need to work together to make this happen!

Colleges, institutes and polytechnics are aligned with the needs of employers. They develop program curriculum that is market responsive and offer customized education; have established business and industry partnerships; and play an important role in applied research and innovation. Yet, there is still a compelling story to tell to government, industry and the public in general about advanced skills offerings including degrees and specialized post-graduate programs.  So many still believe colleges provide only vocational and trades training.

Conclusion and Go-forward actions:

As Canadians, there is a need for civic engagement to address this challenge.  “We can choose to do nothing and we will survive, or we can do something and thrive”, said Ann Buller, President of Centennial College and Chair of ACCC’s Board of Directors.

Colleges, institutes and polytechnics support economic growth by supplying graduates with advanced skills for all sectors.  They are uniquely positioned to contribute towards reducing the skills gap and be a game changer.

A summary of proposed solutions put forward at the National Skills Summit is being compiled.

To start, ACCC will:

  • Engage with industry represented at the National Skills Summit to work jointly on proposed solutions.
  • Re-establish an employers’ coalition for advanced skills.
  • Leverage its work on transferability and pathways.
  • Share outcomes and actions needed at national industry conferences.
  • Explore the possibility of a national campaign on the skills gap.
  • Promote best practices of industry to address the skills gap

Leadership can make a difference in the skill shortage. Leaders from all stakeholders are called to take up the charge individually and collaboratively and work with ACCC and its member colleges and institutes.