the Honourable Diane Finley,
Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development,
Skills Shortages and Youth Employment
Odette School of Business
University of Windsor
November 30, 2012
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Thank you for that kind introduction!
I’d like to express my heartfelt thanks to the members of the faculty at the Odette School of Business for making me feel right at home.
I was impressed to learn that your school has one of the most sophisticated campus stock market trading floors in North America.
Now, I’m not one for predicting stocks…but I will wager that the students receiving such great experiences here have the potential for fantastic futures and careers!
As regional Minister responsible for Southwestern Ontario, I can’t think of a better place than here to talk about Canada’s Economic Action Plan, which is all about creating growth, jobs and prosperity for the future.
As business school students, you see things from a big picture perspective…so I think you understand that we are on the cusp of some big changes here in this country.
Yes, the global economy remains fragile – and you never know when a ripple can turn into a major wave.
But the future is bright in this country – and that’s why our Government is so focused on getting things right…both for today and for tomorrow.
And you are all a big part of that tomorrow.
I know that some of you won’t be graduating until next year or beyond.
But I can say with confidence that you hold the key to Canada’s economic success.
This past year, I’ve travelled across Canada and met with business leaders from all sectors of the economy.
The one key message that they have repeated loud and clear… is that skills shortages are their most pressing concern.
Employers need people. But more than that, they need people with specific skills.
And we’ve got a mismatch in this country between what skills Canadians have – what folks like you can bring to a job – and what is needed in the labour market.
The impact of this could be the biggest
socio-economic challenge that we have on the burner right now – because these shortages are slowing job creation and slowing economic growth.
Today, with technology and international competition transforming how we do business, the need for a skilled workforce has never been greater.
Here in Windsor, your local leaders recognized this.
The Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation developed an Economic Action Plan for 2012-2013.
The plan notes that after the recession, the manufacturing sector in this area was left battered…and many jobs, especially among older workers, were lost.
But it also says the local economy is diversifying.
The Conference Board of Canada predicts that by 2015, your unemployment rate will decrease, levelling out at around 7.8 percent.
But to be successful, Windsor area companies will have to attract and retain new talent, especially in the field of e-commerce.
As technology advances and automation increases, businesses will be looking for people who can understand and adapt to new technologies.
That’s where you fit into the picture!
To ensure our country’s economic success, we must hone in on what skills development and training our young Canadians – like you! – are receiving …and also capitalize on your talent.
We need every bit of talent at work in this country.
But more than that, you can be the spark that ignites our economic engine – especially with the preparation you are receiving here at the Odette School of Business.
As you can see, the future is full of potential.
However we are also aware of the challenges – challenges resulting from an uncertain global economy.
Many young Canadians are graduating into unemployment rather than into jobs or a career.
It reminds me of Jimmy.
Several weeks after Jimmy had been hired; he was called into the HR director’s office for a “very important meeting”.
We all know that sort of meeting request is never good.
Jimmy arrived at the door. The air was tense and the director was terse.
“What is the meaning of this?” the director asked.
“When you applied for this job, you told us that you had five years’ work experience. We’ve since discovered that this is the first job that you’ve ever held in your life.”
The young man was quiet for a moment but took a deep breath and said, “but in your advertisement you said you wanted somebody with imagination.”
Personally, I applaud Jimmy for his ingenuity – but his story is reflective of what I call the “no job, no experience – no experience, no job” cycle… to which our young people are bearing witness.
This is a cycle our Government is committed to tackling for you.
This is why we continue to invest in the national Youth Employment Strategy – or YES.
We need to help you – and all young Canadians - gain the skills and experience needed to get into the workforce and to succeed.
Over $300M per year is pumped into this strategy, with highly successful results coming out of programs delivered right across the country.
The flagship program that tends to resonate with everyone is Canada Summer Jobs.
This year alone over 36,000 students were busy at work between their studies. Maybe some of you have benefitted from this program!
What’s wonderful about Canada Summer Jobs is that students “earn while they learn” –gaining experience and new skills that will carry them through to that first job.
Building on these results, I also announced an additional new initiative to YES in order to further tackle youth unemployment.
Through an investment initially outlined in this year’s Economic Action Plan, we are aiming to better connect young Canadians with the skills and information that they need to get the jobs that are in high demand.
By fostering our private sector partnerships, we are honing in on where the jobs are, where the needs are… and encouraging employers to hire young Canadians into roles where they can obtain that critical on-the-job-experience that they so desperately need.
It’s win-win-win. Young people gain experience…and are better coached to align their education choices with where the jobs are. Employers benefit by gaining skilled (or trainable) workers. And the economy benefits by having young people at work in their communities.
And that’s just a few examples of what we’re doing…We’ve also made improvements to the Canada Student Loan program and our apprenticeships grants, which are encouraging young Canadians to enter into the skilled trades.
Today’s youth are tomorrow’s workforce, so by investing in youth we are helping contribute to Canada’s long-term growth, competitiveness and overall prosperity.
So it is important for you to be well equipped for the workforce of tomorrow.
It’s quite exciting that you are building knowledge and developing skills at this particular moment in our history.
Make no mistake – your skills will be in high demand!
Windsor’s Economic Action Plan, for example, says the most pressing priority is to ensure the workforce has the knowledge and skills required to support the changing economy.
It also says “we must maximize opportunities for youth to engage in the local workforce”.
Again, that’s you!
The changes that are sweeping the economy are changing the very nature of our workforce.
And believe me, these changes represent nothing short of a golden opportunity for you.
So let’s get one thing clear.
Our government believes in your future.
As business people, as government, as leaders… our mindsets must be to think outside of the box and be creative… That we can shift the gears, do things a little differently, and deliver even better results.
After all, you can’t expect a different result if you keep doing the same things, in the same way. Right?
It is with this mindset that we recently announced our commitment to exploring social finance by launching the call for concepts for innovative solutions to social and economic challenges – challenges such as youth unemployment.
Broadly speaking, social finance is an emerging field which encourages additional investments and stronger collaboration between government, private business, local foundations and not-for-profit organizations.
There is tremendous knowledge, experience and capital in this country - and it’s a gold mine that we need to tap into more effectively.
My hope is that Canadians submit new and exciting ideas that can possibly shape future social policy in Canada or identify new partners with whom we can work or learn.
Together we can deliver even better results for Canadians and their tax dollars - and ultimately create an even stronger Canada.
In fact, I would encourage you to visit hrsdc.gc.ca/socialfinance to share any ideas you may have.
So, on that note – let me open the floor to hear from you and to get some discussion going.
Who here has been in touch with prospective employers or gained on-the-job experience while studying?
What do you feel is the greatest challenge in transitioning from school to the workplace?
In your own words, I’d like you to tell me - how can we strengthen the bonds that already exist between students, business and academia?
Later, I’ll be meeting with stakeholders to hear their views on how we can address the issue of skills shortages.
One of the questions I’ll be asking them is - how can we tap into the talent pool that’s right here at the Odette School of Business?
As we head toward the end of the semester, I wish you the very best in your studies.
The curriculum that’s been prepared for you is just what the doctor ordered, to fill our country’s skills needs.
So let’s get the discussion going. And if you have any questions I’m happy to answer.