Employer Driven

On July 23, 2013 Scott Armstrong, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development (yes, this Scott Alexander), hosted a roundtable on how to strengthen the Labour Market Development Agreements (LMDAs).
This is part of a series of roundtables that Mr. Armstrong will host, in cooperation with provincial and territorial governments, across Canada.

As part of its plan for creating jobs, economic growth, and long-term prosperity, the Government of Canada is committed to strengthening LMDAs to reorient training toward labour market demand. It is expected that the new LMDAs will better connect Canadians with available jobs by ensuring they have access to training for the skills employers need. Funded through the Employment Insurance (EI) program, the Government of Canada transfers over $2 billion annually to the provinces and territories through the LMDAs to provide skills training to EI clients and employment services to all unemployed Canadians.

The roundtables give governments, employers, and other stakeholders an opportunity to discuss how to make the LMDAs more employer-driven [emphasis mine] and responsive to the needs of the labour market. The roundtables also give the Government of Canada valuable insight on local skills shortages and gaps.

"Through Economic Action Plan 2014, our Government continues to create jobs and pave the way for long-term prosperity by putting skills training at the forefront. The new generation of Labour Market Development Agreements will result in greater employer involvement in training to ensure that Canadians are equipped with the skills employers need now and in the future. "

We have noted on this blog many times, with some dismay, the Conservative Government's privileging of the employer perspective when analyzing and creating policy. We are concerned that, as the government is not collecting its own labour market data, that this privileging of one perspective may lead to an imbalance that will not serve Canadian workers, immigrants and lifelong learners well. How will the government evaluate what it is hearing from employers?

In the face of the C.D. Howe Institute publishing a report that shows the Temporary Foreign Worker program is contributing to high unemployment rates and Don Drummond critiquing the data that was used to set the criteria for the TFW program, Minister Jason Kenney has been pushing back quite effectively against employers who claim that they will go out of business if they cannot use employees brought to Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker program. He says that he has based his decisions about reforms to that program on "evidence, research and data - not on anecdotes and not on political pressure from certain interests."
"Transition plans will oblige employers of high-wage temporary foreign workers to help Canadians obtain in-demand skills through activities like investing in skills training or taking on more apprentices, or an employer can provide proof that they are helping a high-skilled temporary foreign worker transition to becoming a permanent resident of Canada," Alexandra Fortier said in an email, quoting directly from the new rules posted on the Employment and Social Development Canada website. 

That is welcome news but unless the government starts collecting comprehensive labour market data, how can its ministers create labour market policy that meets the needs of Canadian workers, Canadians who are not currently working and would like to, Canadians who are underemployed or who are working in temporary or precarious conditions, Canadians who are over-skilled for the jobs they are doing, Canadians who are looking to increase their skills to meet labour market demands, Canadians who face discrimination in the labour market, Canadians who cannot find work for wages that will sustain them in the Canadian economy, people who come to Canada to work, people who immigrate to Canada and employers.
The biggest problem is that Canada still lacks a single, national body in charge of overseeing and increasing the amount and quality of employment data in Canada, Drummond says.

Statistics Canada logs the official employment rate ... but movements to beef up Statistics Canada's weapons in tracking data, or to create another government agency solely tasked with jobs data, have fallen short due to lack of political will and budget cutbacks.

I hope Jason Kenney uses the same critical eye, and ear, at the LMDA roundtables as he does when listening to the employers who argue for increased access to temporary foreign workers.

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