Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

 

Terms like ‘The Great Resignation’, ‘quiet quitting, ‘ghosting’ and ‘grey wave’, have become commonplace to describe trends creating upheaval for employers in their quest to attract and retain workers.

 

But finding a solution to Ontario’s job shortages will require a multi-pronged approach consisting of unique ideas that take into consideration the diversity of labour needs among various sectors.

 

In effort to find these potential ideas, the Cambridge Chamber recently brought together a group of business and community leaders – all Members - to discuss their concerns via our MasterMind Series.

 

“Our MasterMind sessions are a great way to get feedback on particular issues that can assist us in developing policies that we can advocate for change at the provincial and federal levels of government which in turn will benefit businesses,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher.

 

Changes to the immigration system was just one of several areas the group touched upon that would require legislative changes at both the provincial and federal levels. Others included a discussion about the need for potential curriculum changes and the costs surrounding WHMIS training.

 

This discussion inspired the Chamber to develop several recommendations in a draft policy it will present for approval at the Ontario of Chamber of Commerce’s AGM in April. Additional recommendations with a federal focus may be developed for another policy which the Chamber will present next fall at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce AGM.

 

If approved, these policies are then included in the advocacy ‘playbooks’ of both organizations as they lobby the government for changes that will benefit businesses.

 

 

Labour shortages remain a big concern

 

While the pandemic is often identified as the catalyst behind Canada’s continued employment issues, many experts believe our labour force growth rate has been trending downward since 2000 and has been exacerbated by the arrival of COVID-19.

 

In fact, according to Statistics Canada, in 2021 one in five Canadian workers were between the age of 55 to 64 – representing an all-time high of baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964). This translates into 1.4 million Canadians between 2016 to 2021 who are 55 or older and looking towards retirement.

 

Adding to this dilemma of a shrinking workforce, according to StatsCan, recruiting skilled workers was expected to be an obstacle for the first quarter of 2022 for 39.9% (approximately two-fifths) of all businesses.

 

The effects may be reflected in the results of an annual labour survey conducted in 2022 by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters’ (CME) of 563 manufacturers in 17 industries nationwide which outlined the impact labour shortages were having by indicating a nearly $13 billion loss in Canada’s economy over the course of a year.

 

While a job surge at the end of 2022 which saw the unemployment rate drop to 5% in December compared to 5.1% in November was welcomed news, StatsCan says a hike in illness-rated absences resulted in limited worker output. As well, while StatsCan says Canada’s employment rate increased to 61.8% in December, compared to 61.5% the month before, the projected trend shows a drop to 60.9% in 2024 – with the potential to rebound and hit 62.2% in 2025.

 

The effect these fluctuations will have as employers continue to seek employees to fill the nearly one million job vacancies in Canada has yet to be determined, considering the results of a recent poll conducted by the recruitment firm Robert Half indicating half of Canadian workers are planning to seek new jobs in 2023 – nearly double the amount from a year ago. That poll, conducted this past fall from among 1,100 workers from multiple sectors, showed that 50% of respondents would be seeking new employment in the next six months (up from 31% six months ago). The top reasons for this shift not only include higher salaries, better benefits, and perks, but greater flexibility to decide when and where they work.

 

 

Resources needed to improve immigration system

 

As current and potential employees weigh their options and re-valuate their priorities and goals when it pertains to employment, Canada continues its concentrated effort to reach its immigration target of 1.4 million in three years to fill these widening labour gaps.

 

While an influx of immigrants is welcomed news in hopes of easing labour shortages, the need to ensure resources are available to serve this growing population is imperative. Besides an adequate supply of housing, language training is just as important to provide them with a basic tool they need to enter the workforce even faster.

 

Providing necessary resources to assist newcomers was an issue raised during our MasterMind session, as well as extending the current hourly work limit permanently for international students. As well, it was suggested policy changes are needed when it comes ensuring foreign workers who do not hold management positions could bring their families to Canada more easily.

 

 

Recommendations going to OCC

 

The policy - entitled Opening Job Markets for Employers and Employees and co-sponsored by our colleagues at the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce – touches on several areas.

 

The Chamber has recommended the OCC urge the Ontario Government to:

  1. Develop all potential partnerships within local municipalities and community organizations to ensure that language training is made available for new immigrants.
  2. Allow those on ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) who can work full time to do so without risking loss of their provincially funded benefits (i.e., prescribed medications) if their employer does not provide those services.
  3. Investigate a form of remuneration (i.e., tax credit) for employers when it comes to providing provincially regulated training, such as WHMIS, and their associated costs.

 

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