At this week's Council of the Federation in Niagara Falls, Ontario the Provincial Premiers will argue they are best-suited to deliver training programs in their local markets, that they have existing infrastructure and programming in place, and that the Federal government should "back off" from telling them how to spend money.
Well, in fairness and in principle, the provinces are right. In reality however, the training system is under-performing and the federal government (as the funder of said training programs) has every right to step in and demand results. If Canada was producing the kinds of skilled people the economy was demanding and industry could find boilermakers, electricians, millwrights and similar highly skilled people for large natural resources projects, the provinces might be justified in their indignation. If the provinces were producing even results across the country and employers were not forced to use temporary employment programs with overseas labour, the gripes might be justified.
In the skilled trades, countless organizations and demographers are sounding alarms -- in construction alone we will face shortages of key trades in the neighbourhood of 110,000 people, according to Buildforce Canada. This means large natural resource projects across this country could be at risk -- large resource players will be competing with themselves for workers in different parts of the country.
Did you know that skilled trades people build airports, highways, factories, pipelines, condos and community centres? So, if you like natural gas in the winter for your furnace and gasoline for your boat at the cottage in the summer you can thank a skilled trades person.
Frankly, Canada needs to get the people thing right -- if we don't, our shared success could be at risk. If the provinces want to align training programs to industrial demand, great. If not, and provinces continue to offer training programs not directly linked to occupations in demand, the federal government has every justification to step in and demand value for money. The Canada Job Grant is an attempt to realign priorities, to nudge provincial partners, to effectively improve training delivery in Canada and this is the kind of action Canadians should expect from their federal government.