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How HR Professionals Can Help Identify the Skills Required for the Future

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to some first-year business students at Western University, in London, Ontario about the human resources profession.  I mentioned that the Conference Board of Canada estimates that there will be a skilled worker shortage of 1 million by 2020 and so as an HR professional one of the challenges will be finding and retaining talent.  I spoke about other challenges and trends in HR as well as initiatives and activities that they could do to position themselves in the workforce. At the end of my presentation one student asked a great question: “What are the specific skills that will be in shortage?”

I answered what I believe the skills employers will seek in regards to general competencies, but other than the jobs in my employer’s industry, I could not tell them what specific jobs and skills would be demanded in the future.

Having thought about this over the past few weeks I wondered what we could be doing now to answer this student’s question.  Sources over the last few years have said that work is changing and that we are moving towards a knowledge-based economy. More skilled workers are needed, but what are these skills, and how can human resources professionals help?

A report titled: People without Jobs, Jobs Without People: Ontario’s Labour Market Future was produced for Ontario Colleges in 2010 by Dr. Rick Miner, a former President of Seneca College. This paper examines the labour market crisis and suggests solutions to address this challenge.  Miner sees this as a two-fold task:

  1. We need to increase our labour force; and
  2. We need to increase the proportion of labour force with post-secondary education or training.

The report concludes with a call for action to address potential skill shortages and suggests that any “new initiatives must include colleges, universities, polytechnics, employers, and unions”. As HR professionals, representing employers, how can we relay this important information on labour needs most effectively to educational institutions?

For example, the Elgin-Middlesex-Oxford Local Workforce Planning and Development Board is working with community partners to launch the Employer One Survey. The survey’s goal is to develop a collaborative, efficient way to obtain reliable local labour market information from employers, while still respecting the employer’s confidentiality and time constraints. This information will be communicated between various stakeholders, including universities, colleges, school boards and employment service providers who will work to provide solutions to address the results.

I am hoping HR professionals in my local area will take the time to complete the survey on behalf of their organizations. If a large number of employers participate, we will gain a greater understanding of our local labour market’s current and future needs.  By communicating with students and educational institutions, we can address specific education and training needs in our region. Furthermore, this collaboration may even be able to help us as HR professionals in our efforts of recruiting and retaining the talent we need for the future.

For more information on the Employer One Survey project please visit the Elgin-Middlesex-Oxford Workplace planning board website. To find out more about Labour Market initiatives in others regions in Ontario, visit the Workplace Planning Ontario website.

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