Focus on skills training, collaboration will build Ontario economy: Report

Fostering greater collaboration between industry, government and post-secondary institutions is essential to building a highly skilled workforce in Ontario, according to a new report released by the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA).

Strengthening Ontario’s Workforce for the Jobs of Tomorrow,which was developed in conjunction with Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at CIBC World Markets, called on the government to take the necessary steps to build a highly skilled workforce by identifying and helping create the jobs of today and tomorrow.

“This is an absolutely critical issue for our members, for our economy, and our future prosperity,” said Bill Greenhalgh, CEO of HRPA. “More collaboration, communication and cooperation between industry, educators and government is essential to creating a stronger workforce, and a more competitive economy.”

Only 43 per cent of HR professionals feel the employees they have hired in the past year have been adequately prepared by their pre-hire education and training for the jobs they take on, found the survey, which says this indicates a vast gap between the skills taught in Ontario and those in demand by an ever-shifting economy.

This skills gap can only be addressed by educators working more closely with business to stay on top of current industry needs and revising curriculums to facilitate the application of those skills in the job market setting, said HRPA. The paper underscored the importance of on-the-job training, calling on businesses to invest further in worker training, and recommended government search for ways to reduce training costs to ensure workers learn essential skills throughout their careers.

Colleges and universities need to work more closely together, according to the paper, which pointed to a German model of dual post-secondary systems that combine academic and on-the-job training as a possible way forward in Ontario.

“Ontario is moving in this direction with articulation agreements, and offers numerous collaborative and joint degree programs,” said Greenhalgh. “The province should look to expand these programs and promote them with high-school students.”