The Canadian Chamber of Commerce recently released their 2013 list of the top ten barriers to Canadian competitiveness.
Here’s the factors they identified:
- Skills Shortages
- Inadequate Workforce Productivity
- Barriers to world markets for Canadian energy markets
- Inadequate public infrastructure planning
- Tax complexity and structure
- Internal barriers to trade
- Poor innovation performance
- Uncompetitive travel and tourism strategies
- Deficient strategies for trade success in new markets
- Lack of access to capital
Interestingly, I think you could make a case for skills being a leading factor in 3 of the 10 barriers: skills shortages (obviously), workforce productivity and innovation performance. Here’s what the Chamber had to say about each (I’ve highlighted or added notes to the bits that pertain to skills):
Governments and businesses across regions and sectors will need to work cooperatively and aggressively to address this ubiquitous issue, particularly in four key areas: upskilling, immigration policies, education-employment alignment and Aboriginal education and workforce development
Inadequate workforce productivity
Improved trends in business investment in productivity-enhancing technologies and equipment are encouraging but still leave Canada underperforming relative to its competitors. To improve its productivity, Canada must leverage advanced technologies and efficient infrastructure, support efforts to raise literacy and numeracy levels among workers and ensure its EI program is not a disincentive to work.
Poor innovation performance
Canada lacks a definitive innovation strategy that brings coherence to the many government policies and programs affecting private research, academic research and commercialization. Poor innovation leaves Canadian business vulnerable to competitors and to changing economic conditions. A clear approach that leads to action is urgently needed. (Higher skills tend to result in more innovation… just sayin’ (Ed.)
The paper goes on to ask government to get involved in helping solve the issues. While I agree that governments can help, I really think that businesses need to take the lead on the skills front – too many businesses are hoping that the government will solve the problem, rather than taking steps to address it themselves through effective workforce development initiatives aimed at both new and existing workers. Sure governments can help – but the onus is on businesses to identify the skills they need, and then be proactive in developing those skills. Waiting for government to solve the skills issue is, unfortunately, a road to tears.