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PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 12:41 pm
 


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OTTAWA – For Stephen Tarrant, fears of a looming skills shortage in Canada, particularly in the lucrative natural resources sector, are downright laughable.

After six years of expensive, intensive post-secondary training, Tarrant graduated last year from Memorial University with a degree in economic geology, a published honours thesis and several terms of paid fieldwork under his belt.

But in the year since leaving school, the 24-year-old has learned a harsh truth: a degree tailor-made for the much-touted mining and energy sector does not guarantee a job in it.

“I’ve probably had, without exaggeration, 300 applications sent to different companies across the country and basically heard nothing back,” a weary Tarrant said by phone earlier this month. He had just finished a long day serving Christmas shoppers for minimum wage at a Target store in St. John’s.

Tarrant’s retail reality – he holds another part-time gig at a Starbucks location – is particularly bitter given the seemingly never-ending talk of skills shortages in a sector advertised as the future of Canada’s economy. For him, each news story or government announcement on the topic feels like the twist of a knife.

“I’m just flabbergasted,” he said. “I don’t understand how they’re pumping this into students when I couldn’t buy a job right now if I wanted one.”

The conflicting narratives of underemployed graduates and sector-specific skills shortages have led to conclusions of a skills mismatch in Canada, but with more anecdotes like Tarrant’s surfacing, some experts posit the disconnect lies somewhere else entirely.

Rather than a mismatch of skills, the real culprit seems to be a lack of reliable, empirical data upon which to base more accurate economic projections.

Derek Burleton, deputy chief economist with TD Economics, exposed Canada’s dearth of job force data earlier this year with the release of a 55-page report questioning claims of an impending skills crisis.

“We were forced to scratch together a lot of different sources,” he said, noting Canada lacks a comprehensive database of job vacancies, and relies heavily on self-reporting from industry groups and surveys of online job banks.

As a result, “we were not able to say if the (skills) mismatch is getting worse,” he said.

That’s cold comfort for people like Tarrant, who are left with crushing disappointment and student debt when economic projections based on assumptions and estimations are presented as fact. In his case, a drop in commodities prices dissolved job prospects he had been banking on. Since then, Tarrant says, industry experts have told him “it will be years before the economy is able to support new geologists.”

While market forces play a significant role in determining whether economic predictions will come to pass, Burleton said better data would vastly improve their accuracy.

Universities, which have the capacity to closely track graduates, should provide alumni information to Statistics Canada, he said, which should then cross-reference with income tax data to determine how many graduates are finding jobs in their fields.

As things stand, Canada lags behind the United States when it comes to collecting labour force data, said Philip Cross, former chief economic analyst for Statistics Canada and a senior fellow at the MacDonald-Laurier Institute.

“We don’t put the money into it that the Americans do,” he said.

In determining existing and future job vacancies, it isn’t enough to come up with a ballpark figure, Cross said, the root cause of job openings also needs to be taken into account.

“When you look at employment changes, it’s important to know if the change is due to more hiring, less people quitting, or more people on layoffs,” he said. “In the U.S., they have this terrific survey where they go out and they measure those three components.”

In Canada, the finer points of the data are not addressed. Statistics Canada only began keeping track of job vacancies in 2011, Cross said, mostly through online postings and employer surveys, a method Burleton contends is flawed.

Employers have a “vested interest” to exaggerate trouble finding qualified applicants, he said, because it provides incentive for governments to continue funding training programs. Both Cross and Burleton said business is not pulling its weight when it comes to training workers, noting Canadian companies have one of the lowest rates of training investment among countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

Furthermore, reliance on online job applications compromises data on supposed skills shortages, Cross said, because computer programs automatically weed out suitable candidates whose resumes fail to meet overly specific screening criteria.

“Employers use computer programs to screen out people, and frankly, they don’t do a very good job of it,” he said.

Pedro Antunes, director of national and provincial forecasts for the Conference Board of Canada said overall projections of macroeconomic conditions are reasonably reliable, but problems arise when the details that are available aren’t passed on to people who really need them, like Tarrant.

Antunes said he believes data supports claims of skills shortages in Canada’s resource sector, but growth is on the construction, not the resource extraction, side.

“People say we’ve become a resource economy, but that’s not true,” he said. “Resource extraction itself, it’s very productive, highly capital intensive and employs very few people.”

Extraction accounts for 100,000 jobs in Canada’s economy, Antunes said, while construction in the sector accounts for 500,000.

That might explain why Tarrant estimates that out of 200 students in his graduating class, two-thirds have been unable to find jobs in their field. And hundreds more are set to graduate this year.

That scenario is a symptom of Canada’s “crisis of credentialism,” according to Ken Coates, faculty at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan.

Incomplete and misconstrued data combined with overly broad criteria to determine statistical “success” in the job market is encouraging young people to pursue university degrees they don’t really need, he said.

For example, if a university graduate lands a job driving a truck, or working at Target, the data collection agencies count that as a win – an employed university graduate.

“The people in the university system consider him a success story and so does Stats Canada,” Coates said. The graduate, however, likely views it very differently. Meanwhile employers are increasingly viewing university degrees as a filtering mechanism for applicants, Coates said, regardless of whether the job requires it.

Like Burleton, Coates says there is a great need to reform Canada’s data collection process. He has been a vocal critic of universities, which, he says, are not fulfilling their responsibility to future students by tracking grads and releasing detailed information on job prospects.

And there is one major reason he suggests institutions are reluctant to create a clearer picture of the job market: It’s likely not a pretty one.

“I think sometimes we’re not so confident we want the answer,” he said.


http://www.edmontonjournal.com/business ... story.html


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 12:50 pm
 


24 year finish institute, why so late?


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:24 pm
 


PostFactum wrote:
24 year finish institute, why so late?



Honours thesis = extra year

Co-op Program, sometime school, sometime out working.



But this guy has to know sending out applications isn't enough.

Pound pavement, work the phone, call everyone you know.

It isn't always what you know, it's who you know.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:28 pm
 


Same thing in the US. Kids graduate from college with advanced degrees and they can't find jobs. Meanwhile the Democrats and Republicans both keep pushing for more H1B visa permits so we can import more labor from India and China.

It stinks.

Immigration needs to be indexed to unemployment. As unemployment rises then there should be a corresponding decrease in immigration.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:34 pm
 


BartSimpson wrote:
Same thing in the US. Kids graduate from college with advanced degrees and they can't find jobs. Meanwhile the Democrats and Republicans both keep pushing for more H1B visa permits so we can import more labor from India and China.

It stinks.

Immigration needs to be indexed to unemployment. As unemployment rises then there should be a corresponding decrease in immigration.


Meanwhile around here, you can take welding and pipefitting courses, work like a dog for 10 years and retire a millionaire at 30. If you can get into the courses, that is.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:42 pm
 


martin14 wrote:

It isn't always what you know, it's who you know.

Man I wanted to write this but you did it first.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:58 pm
 


Well, before working in a company, it's necessary to get even a minimum experience somewhere, even for food and a place for a sleep. Noone wants a young specialist who just can't nothing, studying and doing are different. A year ago I had a practice in a law firm, during a month I've learn more than during 2 years of education. But from other side, they are making money, and I was wasting their time because they were teaching me. Maybe he choose wrong proffession, Caleb says about welders, I agree. Kids choose proffessions that are "in fashion". And than pay for that. Welder is not in fashion, but good welder will find a job even in god forgotten village. The world has changed, companies need workers that can work and make money for them right now, not later. So if you choose a "fashion proffession", you have to know right people. If you don't know them, forget about it.


Last edited by PostFactum on Tue Dec 31, 2013 2:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 2:22 pm
 


BartSimpson wrote:
Meanwhile the Democrats and Republicans both keep pushing for more H1B visa permits so we can import more labor from India and China.

Well, maybe the American applicants shouldn't be demanding crazy things like "market compensation."


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 2:28 pm
 


DanSC wrote:
BartSimpson wrote:
Meanwhile the Democrats and Republicans both keep pushing for more H1B visa permits so we can import more labor from India and China.

Well, maybe the American applicants shouldn't be demanding crazy things like "market compensation."


True.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 2:36 pm
 


PostFactum wrote:
Well, before working in a company, it's necessary to get even a minimum experience somewhere, even for food and a place for a sleep. Noone wants a young specialist who just can't nothing, studying and doing are different. A year ago I had a practice in a law firm, during a month I've learn more than during 2 years of education. But from other side, they are making money, and I was wasting their time because they were teaching me. Maybe he choose wrong proffession, Caleb says about welders, I agree. Kids choose proffessions that are "in fashion". And than pay for that. Welder is not in fashion, but good welder will find a job even in god forgotten village. The world has changed, companies need workers that can work and make money for them right now, not later. So if you choose a "fashion proffession", you have to know right people. If you don't know them, forget about it.
(P.S. This guy has where to send his resume, I would be happy to send mine even somewhere, but there are no vacan places).



Well said man.
I know a couple of guys who go mining in Africa, maybe our example grad needs to cast his line farther out.

Mind you, it is Africa. :lol:


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 3:16 pm
 


Hu.....more jobs here than there are Newfies to fill them. Now we're getting all the unemployed auto workers from Ontario coming. They don't work worth a shit, but at least they speak English unlike the Newfies.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 5:23 pm
 


DrCaleb wrote:
BartSimpson wrote:
Same thing in the US. Kids graduate from college with advanced degrees and they can't find jobs. Meanwhile the Democrats and Republicans both keep pushing for more H1B visa permits so we can import more labor from India and China.

It stinks.

Immigration needs to be indexed to unemployment. As unemployment rises then there should be a corresponding decrease in immigration.


Meanwhile around here, you can take welding and pipefitting courses, work like a dog for 10 years and retire a millionaire at 30. If you can get into the courses, that is.


I was about too say, there are far too many people who still think degrees will = instant job. What is needed is practical skill, trades training, and the like.

There is a huge skill shortage in this country, but it's all practical.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 5:45 pm
 


Canadian_Mind wrote:

There is a huge skill shortage in this country, but it's all practical.

And experience doesn't count if you don't have a Uni degree.

Vicious circle.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 5:51 pm
 


Meanwhile we bring in 250,000 immigrants every year and have 400,000 temp workers working here.

As the article says, companies arent' willing to train, expect the govt to do it all. We need far better co-ordination between companies and govt to make sure people are being trained for the right jobs. The guy in this story didn't take some artsy fartsy degree, he specialized in mining geology because he was assured our mining sector is booming. Sucker.

As the article also points out, resource extraction is not labor intensive, so always just trying to boost that sector isn't going to get people jobs.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 5:54 pm
 


BartSimpson wrote:
Same thing in the US. Kids graduate from college with advanced degrees and they can't find jobs.


The problem is that even after kids graduate, they have no experience, so all they hear is the line, "We chose someone with more experience."



BartSimpson wrote:
Meanwhile the Democrats and Republicans both keep pushing for more H1B visa permits so we can import more labor from India and China.

It stinks.

Immigration needs to be indexed to unemployment. As unemployment rises then there should be a corresponding decrease in immigration.


The problem is too many North American kids aren't taking the engineering and computer programming degrees our economy needs. Those who do, like those at Waterloo, get hired right away and make a fortune right away.

It seems like the only people taking science courses these days come from India and China.


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