indicatorThe Owl

Putting our backs into it

Taking action on labour shortages

By Rob Roach, ATB Economics 2 February 2023 1 min read

Trouble finding enough workers is the number one issue Alberta business operators have been mentioning to me lately.

These observations are supported by business outlook surveys and elevated job vacancy numbers.

After highlighting the labour shortage challenge and how the aging of our population will keep it in play for years to come at a recent presentation, a savvy member of the audience asked the key question: What can we do about it?

There are four broad answers:

1. Keep older workers engaged after they reach retirement age - A great deal of experience and skill leaves the labour pool when a worker retires. One way to arrest this outflow is to convince more retirees to either come back to work or stay on in some fashion. 

2. Train more people in areas with the largest shortages - This is a longstanding effort, but it is arguably more important than ever.

3. Attract more people from other countries to become new Canadians or to work here on a temporary basis - Immigration has, and will continue to be, a key source of labour, but we also have to get better things like credential recognition and providing Canadian employment experience in relevant industries.

4. Use technology to fill the gaps - We often think of robots and AI applications as taking away jobs from humans (which happens), but technology can also help address labour shortages as well.

There are other things that can be done such as providing flexible work hours for parents and helping people to move within Canada to where the jobs are.

Whatever we do, it will require concerted effort on the part of employers, educators, workers, industry associations, non-profit organizations, technologists, and policymakers to flesh out the details and take the necessary action.

Answer to the previous trivia question: The Alberta and Saskatchewan portions of Lloydminster were combined into a single municipality by an Order-in-Council of both provinces on May 20, 1930.

Today’s trivia question: In which U.S. state does the famous weather-predicting groundhog known as Punxsutawney Phil reside?

Labour shortages are cited as a key concern by Canadian businesses

Labour shortages are cited as a key concern by Canadian businesses

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