Government's labour market information given poor grades

Report calls for critical renovations to data, better co-ordination

When it comes to information about Canada’s labour market, the federal government is delivering a poor performance, according to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. Its report How good is Canada’s labour market information?, gives mostly C grades on the information Canadian business, educators and job seekers rely on to understand the labour market of today and the future.

•Labour force needs by geographic area: B-

•Availability and location of talent and skills: C

•Future labour force needs: C-

•Skills and graduates coming online: C

•Workforce training: C-

•Jobs for new graduates: C

“Despite the millions of dollars spent by government on labour market information, employers cannot get answers to simple questions to help them find workers with the skills they need,” said Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber. “Students, their parents, educators and employers are making critical decisions without the best information to inform them. That has to change.”

Don Drummond, economist and chair of a national advisory panel on labour market information six years ago, participated in the design of the report card, which grades the key surveys, data and reports available at the national level. He also reviewed the results of a panel of LMI (labour market information) users who reflect the views of large employers, industry analysts, economists, post-secondary educational institutions and a student association.

"In recent years, there have been suggestions there aren't enough people with the skills and attributes employers seek,” said Drummond, who is a professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. “Labour market information is often not available or is sometimes not readily accessible to those who could most benefit. The Canadian Chamber's efforts to evaluate labour market information will hopefully lead to improvements."

Although the government has recently invested in two surveys and will launch a new national portal for information, other important reports have been discontinued or are only available as data files without analysis, said the chamber. A new government portal called Career Tool is meant "to inform young people about fields of study that are in demand," according to Budget 2015. So far, the panel found it "very complicated" and "not accurate or useful."

Based on the results of this report card, the Canadian Chamber is urging the federal government to consider where investments in labour market information are most needed, when the Forum of Labour Market Ministers meets in early summer.

The chamber also made these recommendations:

•Canada’s LMI system needs some critical renovations in the short-term.

• Government should co-ordinate and aggregate the sector-specific projections with its broad-based projections and present a more co-ordinated, detailed forecast of Canada’s future labour market.

• Government must think of users and make data more user-friendly and support it with analysis.

• Governments at all levels should make available existing data on the supply of talent. Employers need to know how many people are going to be graduating or completing training in the various fields and careers that post-secondary education prepares people for.

• Government should mandate and fund a publicly accountable, arm’s-length agency to collect and prepare LMI for public consumption, coordinating with provinces, territories and LMI users and other stakeholders.

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