Prime Minister Jean Chretien called on employers to invest more in training, in a speech to a special summit of learning and innovation being held in Toronto Monday and Tuesday.
Chretien made the challenge in a speech, read by Jane Stewart, Minister of Human Resources Development Canada. Chretien was scheduled to attend but was stranded in Shawinigan, Que. by a snowstorm.
If Canada hopes to improve productivity, become more innovative and remain competitive in a global economy, it must become a learning society, he explained in the speech.
“Today’s workplace requires people who adapt quickly. To new products, new techniques new software,” he added.
“I am saying to you tonight that business must invest in learning for their workers if they want to compete. Canada is not doing enough here. I challenge business and labour to jump on this imperative — for the sake of your workers, for the sake of your competitiveness. We must all do more. We must all do better.”
The summit is the culmination of a series of meetings and roundtables sponsored by Human Resources Development Canada and Industry Canada which have championed the government’s so-called Innovation Strategy.
Earlier this year both departments released position papers outlining a series of goals to make Canada more innovative in part by raising the skill level of Canada’s workforce. One of the goals is for businesses to increase by one-third annual investments in training per employee.
The summit is supposed to produce an action plan to meet the goals and Chretien promised “concrete action in the months ahead” from his government but also called on employers to do more to make Canada more competitive on the global stage.
OSTD supports call
The Ontario Society for Training & Development (OSTD) applauded the move, and called for tax incentives designed to boost the amount of on-the-job training.
In a press release, OSTD board member Bob Canuel said this is one of the most effective steps the federal government can take as part of its new innovation strategy.
"Giving business and industry a tangible incentive to increase their investment in employee training and development would be one of the best ways to start making real progress toward fostering innovation," said Canuel, who took part in the special summit in Toronto. "Innovation doesn't just happen by itself. Companies and organizations need to do more to ensure that their people develop to their full potential, and government can provide real incentives for business and industry to make those investments in people."