Business and labour to address aging workforce

New Workplace Partners Panel will create task forces to address regional differences

The majority of Canadian workers are reaching the age of retirement and over the next 15 years the rate of workforce growth will approach zero. Soon after, Canada’s workforce will begin to decline, leading to a severe worker and skills shortage.

“The skills agenda needs to be a pan-Canadian priority,” said Shirley Seward, chief executive officer of the Canadian Labour and Business Centre, at the launch of the Workplace Partners Panel (WPP). “We cannot afford to pay lip service to it and then place it on a back burner.”

The WPP, a new initiative of the federal government’s Workplace Skills Strategy, will be jointly chaired by leaders of the business and labour communities to develop strategies and solutions in response to Canada’s workplace skills and labour market needs.

Its first priority will be to study the issue of Canada’s aging workforce and its implications on skill needs, skill shortages and workers.

“We’re looking to develop recommendations that are useful for all levels of government,” said Seward.

Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, and Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, will be the national co-chairs of the WPP.

The panel will create regional task forces, of which Seward said there will be six or seven across the country, to ensure the perspectives and ideas reflect the needs and strengths of local economies and demographics. Once the regional business and labour co-chairs are in place, the regional task forces can get started on the issues.

“I suspect that work will probably begin by January if not sooner,” she said, adding it could take a year to 18 months for the task forces to table their findings and recommendations.

Each task force will work with community groups and educators and representatives of all levels of government to identify specific problems and solutions that apply to the issue of the aging workforce in that region. Some task forces may focus on immigration or on attracting and training Aboriginal youth, said Seward.

“It will depend very much on what the demographic and economic conditions are in those regions and what the business and labour leaders feel are the most fruitful areas to investigate further,” she said. “We’re looking for practical solutions.”

Once the regional task forces have their recommendations, the WPP will share them with all levels of government as well as the business, labour and education communities in each region. Seward said she hopes they will promote the adoption of innovative practices by both business and labour.

Once the regional task forces are done, a small team from each region will gather at a pan-Canadian meeting to talk about regional differences, which solutions are most useful in different regions and what the Canadian business and labour communities, as well as the federal government, should do to bring about improvements.

“We want to be able to influence many parts of the federal government, not only Human Resources and Skills Development, but Citizen and Immigration, Industry Canada, Finance and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada,” said Seward. “We want to have a government-wide impact through the result of our work.”

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