One of the greatest challenges we hear from businesses is finding the right talent. A survey of Ontario Chamber of Commerce members found that 82% of the businesses that were recruiting in 2016 found it difficult to recruit workers with the right technical training, certifications, and/or “soft skills” such as communications, entrepreneurship and organizational awareness.

The problem is due to a combination of lower unemployment rates, an aging population, youth pursuing longer educations, and students choosing university degrees over obtaining a skilled trade.

It’s not just employers that are worried. More than half of Ontario’s workers fear that their skills will not be useful a decade from now because of automation and changes in the economy.

The impact of this “skills mismatch” is increased turnover rates, reduced productivity, increased unemployment, job dissatisfaction and highly educated people working in positions for which they are overqualified (think of a Master’s graduate working at Starbucks).

In its newest report, “Talent in Transition: Addressing the Skills Mismatch in Ontario”, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce recommends 10 way to address this problem.

  1. Help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) offer “experiential learning opportunities” like co-ops, internships and apprenticeships.
  2. Increase SME’s awareness of experiential learning opportunities that exist in Ontario.
  3. Increase labour market participation of females, indigenous and disabled persons through experiential learning opportunities.
  4. Make it easier for job-seekers to use Employment Ontario services.
  5. Consider evaluating the success of employment programs based on the number of clients finding long term, sustainable employment.
  6. Revise the journey-person to apprenticeship ratio to create more opportunities for apprentices.
  7. Increase support for apprenticeship consortiums that help SMEs hire apprentices.
  8. Simplify the apprenticeship application process.
  9. Reform the College of Trades so that it can better promote careers in the skilled trades.
  10. Increase awareness of the benefits of obtaining a career in the skilled trades.

Addressing the skills mismatch is a challenge for both government and business.  Small businesses in particular find it challenging to sort through government programs and employment services. Given that the majority of private sector jobs in Ontario are in small business, it’s essential that solutions are aimed at helping this sector find and retain qualified talent.