Gaps in Canada’s workforce pose a threat to international trade growth: Report

Employers encouraged to collaborate with educational institutions
||Last Updated: 04/04/2013

Canada is beginning to experience gaps between what global commerce requires for success and what the country’s workforce can supply, according to a recent report.

One gap is a shortfall of the number of people in many occupations that are core to international trade. The other is a gap between the demand for, and availability of, new competencies that are critical to successful global trade, found the International Trade Workforce Strategy by the Forum for International Trade Training (FITT).

“Integrative trade is radically reshaping how Canadian businesses conduct international trade,” said Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “FITT’s study and plan of action focus sharply on making sure existing and emerging global business workers — such as trade finance specialists, value chain managers and regulatory compliance experts — can gain the specialized knowledge, skills and abilities they need to thrive in this new world of integrative trade.”

Closing the gaps

The report cites solutions that each of the three “agents of action” can take on their own as well as some that require collaboration. Recommended solutions to be enacted by the business community start with its need to create national awareness of the pressing urgency for action. Other recommended solutions address effective ways of developing trade-relevant capabilities among employees and collaborating with educational institutions to better prepare graduates for trade.

The government, for example, is asked to create through Statistics Canada a supporting infrastructure of new workforce data focused on that portion of the workforce essential to trade. For the educational community, recommended solutions include more extensive credentialing of competencies critical to trade and creating opportunities for students at all higher levels of schooling to gain relevant experience.

“The actions outlined in our report are exactly what business leaders, education officials and government policymakers in our country’s international-trade sector need to take now,” said Bill Neil, chair of the study’s national steering committee. “These key players — working together and on their own — need to act quickly if our country is to realize the full potential of international trade and we are to maintain the high standard of living we’ve come to enjoy and expect.”

Challenges continue to evolve

The report recognizes that the nature of international commerce continues to evolve and with it the demands placed on a country’s workforce. Canada is no exception, and constant awareness of, and responding to, evolving workforce requirements are essential to the country’s long-term economic prosperity.

“Talent is now widely recognized as the critical strategic resource. It is the quality of the workforce, in both developed and emerging economies, that will drive growth and prosperity. Canada's foresight in aggressively addressing the talent it requires to grow its international trade is laudable and will result in a greater competitive advantage for the country and its businesses,” said Julio Portalatin, president and CEO of Mercer.

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