The insanity of Canada’s non-existent domestic labour training regime

Canada does not have nationally coordinated labour training regime. Why does this matter? Just take a look at what is going on in Alberta. There the oil patch is gearing up for record labour shortages and the federal government is pumping out temporary foreign worker permits and individual corporations are opening training centers in Mexico. The estimated labour “shortage” in Alberta ranges from 75 to 130 thousand. The highest estimate therefore is less than 1/10 of a percent of currently unemployed Canadians. Moreover the estimated demand is around 1/5 of unemployed Canadian workers who qualify for unemployment insurance.

Clearly something beyond labour supply is going on here. I can think of only two reasons a deluge of temporary worker permits is being contemplated in the context of nearly 1.5 million unemployed Canadian workers: semi skilled and skilled foreign workers are both cheaper and more pliant than Canadian workers. Oil companies simply do not want to pay the cost of retraining central and eastern Canadian workers nor make the remuneration attractive enough to convince unemployed workers to move to Northern Alberta. What is more the federal government has no appetite for robust national labour training and mobility regime. The result is that the most expedient path is the issuing of temporary foreign worker permits.

9 thoughts on “The insanity of Canada’s non-existent domestic labour training regime

  1. I work closely with the Alberta labour market. They are not issuing LMO’s for entry level oilfield work. While there are still some semi-skilled LMO’s going out, most LMO’s are going out for skilled workers like Engineers. And this is where the shortage actually lies. But the problem I find in Alberta is employers are looking in a labour pool that doesn’t have the skills they need. There isn’t a shortage of roughnecks, there is a shortage of soil testers, petroleum technologists and project managers. The demand is for skilled workers, people with diplomas and degrees over 2 years. So I agree that there isn’t unified retraining strategy, but such a strategy would require significant investment of dollars.

    • Jason that is interesting. The Globe article points to skilled and semi skilled trades as the bulk of the demand. The industry is talking about a max of 130 thousand workers. It seems unlikely the bulk of those are project managers and engineers.

      Yes a training regime would require a significant amount of resources as will the cost of long term unemployed or discouraged workers who do not show up in the official statistics. Policy makers and businesses want the benefits of a flexible, globally competitive labour force but they do not want to pay for it. The result of which is going to be a continuation of in the trend to greater income inequality and social polarization. Not to mention xenophobic reaction to an increasing reliance on temporary foreign workers.

      • Gee, you have your own petroleum paid troll. Isn’t that nice?

        Number of a shortage of soil testers, petroleum technologists and project managers.? Oh, maybe 1,000.

        “I work closely with the Alberta labour market.” “I” don’t have a title or a job description because I am a troll. I expect to make a lot of money trolling for my employers. Do I give a damn about Albertans? No, I get paid for lying. I will be well paid as long as my employers can bring in cheap labor.

    • Actually my source is from the same Association that is predicting the labour shortage – The Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada:

      Sure, there are jobs on the list that may be considered ‘semi-skilled’ but still many of these positions require some form of training and experience. Personally I’d rather see these jobs filled by our own people trained here in Canada. But, if we can’t do it, then we need to look overseas and we need make sure our immigration system is responsive and competitive.

      • The point is that these shortages were well known 2-3 years ago which is sufficient time to retrain broad swaths of skilled classes of workers from central Canada. Of course if you do not have a national labour training and mobility regime then it is a forgone conclusion that you have to source elsewhere. That is one side of the insanity of a non policy.

        And for the record back in the 70s Canada had a truly competitive immigration policy. My mother got citizenship basically because Canada was seriously short of RNs. With the job came a very smooth path to citizenship for her, her husband and their one child. That is a far cry from what is on offer today. I do not see the Alberta oil industry lobbying for that kind of immigration regime so I have to ask why not? That fact betrays the other side of the insanity.

  2. Geez, why don’t these companies take a longer term view and set up scholarships and recruiting programs via the high school guidance counselor programs to sponsor the education of young Canadians in the obscure (to most of us) technical areas they need, rather than spending as much money and stressing communities and hurting other countries and dislocating so many lives by bringing in these temporary workers?

  3. What keeps temporary foreign workers pliant is the fact they will rarely be granted the status to become permanent residents. Without status the worker cannot access a whole set of rights normally granted to Canadian workers including the right to unionize. In this way wages everywhere are kept low/stagnant and you also get to divide the working class along the lines of status/race/nationality. Nice.

  4. Yep that would be the pliant part. And provoking xenophobic division is, from the point of view of capital and the state, a much better idea than allowing the labour market to push up wages and benefits.

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