The latest Help Wanted report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business’ (CFIB) clearly shows that when employers have open jobs, they try to attract talent by raising wages, yet severe labour shortages persist.
This disproves a common belief that businesses with labour shortages simply need to pay higher wages to attract staff.
“Employers with at least one long-term job vacancy expect to increase wages by significantly more than do employers without vacancies,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB’s chief economist and vice-president.
“This differential exists across all provinces and industries, and interestingly, is most pronounced in the hospitality sector.”
Most businesses in the hospitality and retail sectors were recently excluded from using the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to address severe labour shortages.
Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney has gone so far as to lecture employers that all they need to do is raise wages to attract local Canadian talent. These latest findings, based on CFIB data from 2009 to 2014, suggest they are already doing so.
“This is remarkable labour market data that no one, not even the government has gathered,” added CFIB president Dan Kelly.
“We think this merits the government taking a fresh look at the TFWP and other options like using the permanent immigration system to help employers that are desperate for workers, and just can’t attract the staff they need locally.”
The latest job vacancy numbers – for Q1 – remained fairly stable, with approximately 312,000 full and part-time jobs remaining unfilled, a rate of 2.6 per cent.
The quarterly report is based on surveys of CFIB members on economic and business conditions, including labour shortages. Job vacancies in the report are defined as openings that remain unfilled for at least four months because business owners have been unable to find suitable employees.
The smallest businesses (between one and 19 employees) continue to bear the brunt of labour shortages, with a vacancy rate of 4.1 per cent.
Broken down by province, the vacancy rate was once again highest in Alberta (3.8 per cent) and Saskatchewan (3.6) in Q1. British Columbia (2.8) had the biggest increase in the quarter. Meanwhile, Manitoba (2.7), Newfoundland and Labrador (2.6) and Quebec continued to hover around the national average. The lowest vacancy rates were in Ontario (2.2) and the Maritimes (around 2).
Vacancies were steady in most sectors in Q1, with retail, hospitality, manufacturing and construction continuing to have the most potential job openings, more than 35,000 each.
This survey is based on the views of business owners on the sufficiency of skills and numbers in their workforce to fulfil their business’ goals. If there is a vacancy, there can be many reasons why—some of which may be quite subjective. Some owners may be requiring specific skills that are hard to find in their area. Others may require generalists that can perform in a range of functions. Beyond raw skills, some may also be looking for qualities in potential employees to ensure the best fit within their organizations. Others may have a need for specific or irregular working hours and conditions that fewer potential employees are willing to take on.
When an owner is reporting an unfilled position in their business, they may well be including not just the defined roles they have, but also an aspiration for the ideal next employee under ideal circumstances. As such, it is no real surprise that the smallest businesses have the greatest vacancy rates.
Meanwhile, the B.C. government is taking steps to alleviate the critical skills shortage it anticipates for its LNG projects.
Trades students will have access to more training seats, with the government’s $6.8-million investment in critical trades seats for public post-secondary institutions throughout B.C.
This funding is part of B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint to increase training spaces and reduce wait times in trades critical to the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) sector and other industries.
The $6.8 million in funding will create 1,424 foundation and apprenticeship seats at 14 public post-secondary institutions in British Columbia as of September 2014.
The new seats are expected to reduce the top 12 LNG-related trades occupations waitlists by 37% overall. This means that student wait times will be reduced by an average of more than eight months. For example, wait times for the electrical program at Vancouver Island University and Northern Lights College will be reduced by 12 months.
Government initially announced $6.6 million for critical trades seats as part of B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint on April 29, 2014. Funding allocations are based on the most-recent labour market data, on consultations with institutions, the Industry Training Authority and the Province's Labour Market Priorities Board, as well as institutions' current waitlists and capacity to add training seats.
A million job openings are expected in B.C. by 2022, with about 43% requiring college education or apprenticeship training. B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint lays out a comprehensive action plan to re-engineer education and training so British Columbia students and workers have the skills to be first-in-line for jobs in a growing economy.
Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk said: “We promised to increase access to critical trades training seats for in-demand jobs and we are delivering on our commitment to ensure we have a skilled workforce. Throughout British Columbia, we are re-engineering education and training to turn learners into earners.”
Industry Training Authority interim chief operating officer Jeff Nugent said: “we are focused on meeting the training needs for B.C.’s high demand trades. ITA is
Based on the most current labour
market data, the top 12 LNG trades jobs are:
• Steam / pipefitters
• Concrete finishers
• Heavy equipment operators (excluding cranes)
• Gas fitters
• Crane operators
• Sheet metal workers
• Heavy-duty equipment mechanics