Senior business, labour and government leaders from across the country met recently at the inaugural meeting of the Roundtable on Workforce Skills to identify and assess Canada’s emerging workforce skills challenges.
Through bi-annual meetings taking place over the next two years, the roundtable members hope to collaboratively develop forward-looking, practical strategies to address these challenges and to recommend specific actions to governments, businesses and labour communities.
The Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, opened the roundtable in an address to members that affirmed the federal government’s stake in workforce skills investment.
"As Canada emerges from the recession, it is essential that Canadians have the skills to fill the jobs of the future," Finley said. "Our government is committed to ensuring that Canada has the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world."
Several important issues facing the Canadian economy fueled discussion and brainstorming sessions that followed the minister’s address. Increased competition from emerging markets, an aging national demographic and Canada’s lagging record on productivity are seen as major challenges facing the country’s future prosperity.
"Investing in and training our workforce for the skilled jobs of the future is a tangible way in which business, labour and government can ensure that Canadian companies remain innovative, competitive and productive," said Jayson Myers, president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, and roundtable co-chair.
While the roundtable members deliberated about many different priorities in the intensive discussions, they were optimistic about the prospect of forming a broad, shared consensus to tackle a range of difficult challenges, such as an aging workforce, the need to raise the literacy and essential skills levels of Canadians, and preparing businesses and workers to thrive in future high-growth industries.
"When it comes to skills issues, the common interests shared by labour, business and governments will outweigh our differences as long as we are committed to work together toward real results for Canadian workers and businesses," said Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress and roundtable co-chair.
By the end of the meeting, members agreed to focus further meetings on specific objectives that will lead to concrete action plans.
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