MRO Magazine

Future at risk without constant skills training

Canada's standard of living and its values as a nation are at risk without a more entrepreneurial culture and a determination to create many more opportunities for Canadians to put their skills to wor...


April 1, 2000
By Bill Roebuck, Editor

Canada’s standard of living and its values as a nation are at risk without a more entrepreneurial culture and a determination to create many more opportunities for Canadians to put their skills to work in Canada, according to an independent Expert Panel on Skills.

The panel, established by the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council on Science and Technology (ACST), comes to these conclusions in the report Stepping Up: Skills and Opportunities in the Knowledge Economy, released in March. The report emphasizes that an adequate supply of skills is but one of several interrelated and essential ingredients that are necessary for growth and wealth creation in the knowledge-based economy.

The panel calls for improving the functioning of Canada’s labour markets; leveraging R&D capacity to create new opportunities for enterprise and employment; strengthening cradle-to-pension learning systems; and improving the efficiency of ‘school-to-work-to-school’ transitions. The report also challenges industry, the education and training sector, governments, and individual Canadians to develop a new mindset about entrepreneurship if we hope to succeed in the new economy.

“What we are talking about is a comprehensive strategy involving all stakeholders,” says Jacquelyn Thayer Scott, President and Vice-Chancellor of University College of Cape Breton and Chair of the Expert Panel on Skills. “This is about more opportunities right here in Canada. This is a critical investment we must make to secure Canada’s place in the new economy.”

“We found no evidence of a current, generalized shortage of technical and scientific skills in the Canadian industry sectors we have examined in detail, and no evidence of a massive ‘brain drain’,” according to Dr. Scott, “although we are concerned about the loss of high-performing, highly-skilled ‘stars’ in some fields.

“What we did find was worry and frustration across sectors and stakeholder groups, about how fragile our apparent economic success really is and what the future holds unless we refocus our thinking, invest our resources smartly, and create new structures for decision making and action.”

The panel’s report is available on-line at: http://acst-ccst.gc.ca. Over 1000 pages of research and other documentation were prepared for the analysis.

The report provides the stimulus for an opportunity for manufacturing personnel to take on an increased role in training and skills development by passing on their knowledge and encouraging better job-oriented training in local schools. An example is the project undertaken by the Canadian Aviation Maintenance Council, in which 450 high school students across Canada were offered an introduction to aviation maintenance as well as 150-200 hours of work-based experience. The program also was used to test a new maintenance orientation program.

It’s ideas like these, from industry’s important maintenance community, that can help to solve the problems both industry and workers face in the future. We hope you’ll give it some thought.

A hard copy of the report will be available in April, along with a CD-ROM containing all of the background materials, by contacting Gilles Jasmin, Secretary to the Expert Panel on Skills, by phone at (613) 952-1053 or e-mail at jasmin.gilles@ic.gc.ca

Bill Roebuck, Editor

Your comments and ideas are always welcome. You can reach me or by phone at (416) 442-2089. Because many of you work shifts or are often out on the job, let me know the best time of day to get back to you, along with your name and number, if you leave a voice-mail message. You also can send me a fax at (416) 442-2077, or an e-mail message at broebuck@corporate.southam.ca. E-mail is an effective way to communicate outside the constraints of differing working hours and reduces the frustration of telephone tag. The mailing address for regular letters is 1450 Don Mills Rd., Don Mills, ON M3B 2X7.