More than half of employers in Canada say that high schools do not prepare youth for jobs, according to a report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). Yet small businesses are still facing record high job vacancy rates and ongoing labour shortages in certain sectors.
“There is a clear gap between what employers need and the skills our educational institutions emphasize,” said Corinne Pohlmann, CFIB senior vice president of national affairs.
“Schools at the secondary and post-secondary level tend to be more focused on preparing youth for higher education instead of work. Too many young people enter the workforce without the critical soft skills employers look for, putting them at a serious disadvantage when they look for that foundational first job.”
Colleges did better at preparing grads for employment with 51 per cent of employers saying they were very or somewhat satisfied, while only 37 per cent were satisfied with university preparation for employment.
The report recommends that high schools and post-secondary institutions work with the business community to help close the gap by working on curriculums so that it emphasizes soft skills like workplace communication, problem-solving and networking, and promoting careers in the trades.
The perception that trade careers are less valuable than white collar work also adds to the smaller number of young people choosing to go into the trades.
“Many of our country’s entrepreneurs and job creators are small business owners in the skilled trades,” added Emilie Hayes, CFIB policy analyst and co-author of the report. “We shouldn’t stigmatize those jobs and turn young people off from them. Our workforce today and in the future will need tradespeople as much as it needs tech workers and white-collar professionals.”
A suggestion from the report includes that government and schools create more work-integrated learning opportunities, such as co-op placements and internships. Another suggestion is for the government add some type of incentive for smaller businesses to hire inexperienced workers with things like tax-credits or a holiday on employment insurance premiums.