I’ve often had colleagues tell me that I am passionate about workforce issues. I can’t argue with them, especially when I find myself thinking about it when I wake up in the early morning hours. What is it that keeps me awake at night? I call it the “Iceberg Dilemma”.
Being from Newfoundland, I had the pleasure (although at the time it was not thought of in that light!) of viewing icebergs as they floated past the bay in the small community in which I lived. For those that know anything about icebergs, it’s said that what you see on top of the water actually only makes up about 1/9 of what’s under the water. I use this analogy because the labour force challenge that is facing many sectors, communities and countries reminds me of an iceberg. People are seeing the “tip of the iceberg” but not paying enough attention to what is happening below the surface.
While the recession caused havoc for many businesses and their employees, it also flipped attention from a skills shortage to high unemployment rates. Not surprising, many companies went into survival mode and looked to reduce expenses, bunker down and keep their eyes directed towards the end of the tunnel – it became a battle for survival. Canada has done fairly well in riding out the storm and today the topics of workforce availability, skills alignment, and increasing job vacancies, are starting to move back to centre stage.
So how can communities best support local businesses and assist them with accessing the right talent with the right skills at the right time. Because we must remember, that “just in time” applies to more than physical inventory. My experience tells me the solution lies in understanding the lay of the land, working collaboratively because no one organization has all the answers, and acting on a plan that is grounded in local evidence and supported by all that can move it forward. Integrating the strategies of such organizations as local municipal governments, post-secondary institutions, boards of education, and other influencing entities in the community brings power in numbers to the solution. No man is an island, and no community will solve their labour force needs without understanding and responding to what is happening both inside and outside of their geographic boundaries. This is a national challenge and the solution lies in a national workforce strategy.
Move the conversation forward!