Canada needs a mindset shift to fix the skills gap


As Boomers get closer to reaching their golden years, the country doesn’t appear to be any closer to fixing the skills gap that will exist when these hardworking Canadians retire. The scope of this problem is evident in the numbers — in the next 20 years, roughly eight million Canadians will be ready to retire, and their positions will need to be filled.
A majority of Canadians — more than 90% — are worried about the skills shortage and skills gap and believe it will continue to be an issue of importance in 2014, the recent Randstad Labour Trends Study found. And Canada risks falling behind and losing its competitive edge globally, having a direct long-term effect on Canada’s economy.

To bridge the gap, Canadians need to change their mindset in the way they perceive skilled trades. The study revealed that more than 75% view a skilled trade as less respected and old-fashioned in comparison to “white collar” work, even though building a career in a skilled trade can pay anywhere from $40,000 to more than $100,000 a year. Another reason Canadians haven’t considered a skilled trade as a career path is the lack of knowledge about what the skilled trade industry has to offer, 79% of those polled cited.
When asked about the reasoning behind the dismal number of Canada’s next generation of skilled trade workers, 45% of Boomers said the brunt of the problem fell in the hands of educators and lack of promotion of the skilled trades industry. In addition, Canadians felt that companies are also responsible for investing more when it comes to training existing employees to keep their skills relevant and up to speed in the marketplace.
Another pain point for respondents was inadequate government funding for job training. The controversial Canada Job Grant looks like it will finally be introduced — a positive development for the 20% of Canadians that said if properly implemented and run, the program would help address the issue in the short and long term.
The program would give employers up to $15,000 for each employee for training to ensure their skills are up to date. Regardless whether this is facilitated through the Job Grant or partnerships with specialized technical schools, organizations concerned about the skills gap need to be proactive with training programs, apprenticeships and mentoring to ensure the knowledge transfer between older and younger workers.
On the other side, young Canadians need to develop an appreciation for a skilled trades’ degree, which involves family members seeing this as a rewarding career path. Sixty-four per cent of respondents in the Randstad survey admitted they felt pressured by family members to build a future in “white collared” work. However, studying a skilled trade means having a strong academic foundation across many pillars including mathematics, literacy, problem solving and creativity. There’s also more than 8,000 hours of on-the-job training in addition to the in-class seminars and testing that is typical of any degree.
Developing a strong career in a skilled trade doesn’t necessarily translate into intensive physical labour or being covered in dust from dawn until dusk. Many skilled trade workers are using the most sophisticated equipment and cutting-edge technologies, and are well on their way (if not already there) to developing specialized and advanced technical skills that will remain in demand for generations.
A shift in perception is critical: it must begin with families and educators and include governments and organizations. Without it, the country runs the risk of being part of a cycle in which the skills gaps are never filled. Anything less than this will result in a lack of workers needed to drive the economy and maintain the infrastructure that supports every generation.
Tom Turpin is president of Randstad Canada, Canada’s largest staffing, recruitment and HR services provider.
Special to Financial Post | March 12, 2014 at 3:56 pm | Tags: skilled trades, skills gap | Categories: Careers | URL:

Living Longer can be a good thing or maybe Not ?



New post on Financial Post | Business

Why our 60s are our Glory Decade
by Fred Vettese
In Greek mythology, Eos, the goddess of the dawn, fell in love with Tithonus, a mortal. Eos asked Zeus to make Tithonus immortal but neglected to specify under what conditions. Zeus maliciously granted Tithonus immortality but not eternal youth. Poor Tithonus did not die but instead lived on over countless years, growing ever frailer until he was barely more than a whisper.

Thanks to medical advances and general economic prosperity, life spans are getting longer almost everywhere. At the Living to 100 Symposium in Florida recently, longevity experts predicted that the average person born in developed countries like Canada after 2000 can expect to live to 100, a good 15 years more than current life expectancy. This sounds promising but we should not automatically assume that all our remaining years will be healthy ones.

It is only a matter of time before we succumb to stroke, heart attack, cancer, Parkinson’s, dementia or some other age-related illness. It is important to know how many quality years we have left since it affects how we decide to spend our time in retirement.
I couldn’t find any good recent data for Canada but Eurostat, the European equivalent of Statistics Canada, has compiled some interesting data on average healthy life expectancy for 25 European countries.
The average European woman who is age 50 can expect to live another 34.3 years but a startling 16.2 years of those years will be marred by disability that will moderately limit activity for an average of 10.1 years and severely limit activity in the last 6.1 years.

The story for men is similar, with the average 50-year-old European man expecting to live another 29.4 years of which 12 will be spent with moderate or severe disability. Hence a 50-year-old European can expect to live disability-free to 68 in the case of women and 67 in the case of men.
This is very close to the little Canadian data that is available (from 1997) and suggests that, while there will be many exceptions, our 60s will probably be our last really good decade of life.

So what does this mean for people who are approaching retirement now?
The guiding principle is simple: Do the things you want to do when you can do them. Don’t wait too long to take that three-month trip around the world or to finally take some golf or scuba-diving lessons. As for less active things you can do equally well in your 70s, like scrap-booking or gardening, it may make sense to put them off until you get to that age. Your 60s is your glory decade.
As for working in your 60s, you may have no choice financially but if you do have a choice and like your work, then maybe consider working part-time instead of full-time.
This sobering information comes with three pieces of good news.
First, if and when you do succumb to some moderate disability, studies show your spending will decline. Hence, you might afford to spend a little more in your 60s than you thought. It is only in the final few years of severe disability when your spending may trend upwards again (for outside caregivers).
Second, at the same time that life spans are growing, research indicates that the length of time we are disabled is shrinking which means that our disability-free life expectancy is growing faster than our total life expectancy.
As a result, if you are under 50, you can add roughly five or so years to your disability-free life expectancy which will take you well into your 70s. If you are under 35, you can add another five years on top of that so your glory decade will be your 70s.
The final piece of good news is that disability-free life expectancy is something you can improve on. Our approach to health management in our advanced years is changing. Rather than treating each age-related disease as it affects us, a game we can never win, the new emphasis is on regenerative medicine, which involves attacking the aging process itself.
Some gerontologists think we can reach a point in the not-too-distant future when 60-year-olds will enjoy another 30 years of healthy life.
Fred Vettese is chief actuary of Morneau Shepell and co-author of the book, The Real Retirement, published by Wiley & Sons Canada.