Ontario faces labour shortage of 360,000 people

Ontario faces a labour shortage of more than 360,000 people, which threatens many sectors of the economy, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report released today by a coalition of business, education and labour leaders.

“We are threatened with an escalating shortage of trained people in a wide range of areas, from manufacturing to business to social services,” said Barbara Taylor, president of Canadore College and chair of the Ontario colleges’ committee of presidents.

“The challenges in training and retraining sufficient numbers of people are serious enough now, as the economy suffers from layoffs in major industries such as the auto sector,” said Ian Howcroft, vice-president, Ontario division, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters. “In the next few years, the labour market pressures will intensify, as greater numbers of people start to retire and we don’t have a supply of qualified people to replace them. Ontario must address this challenge now.”

The Conference Board of Canada report found the approaching wave of retirements in the workforce, matched against Ontario’s slowing population growth and the projected labour demand, will create an escalating shortage of skilled employees in coming years. Ontario will be short 190,000 skilled employees in 13 years’ time, and that shortage will quickly escalate to more than 360,000 by 2025 and more than 560,000 by 2030.

“Ontario will soon be entering a period where pressures begin to mount significantly,” the report says. “The projected shortfall is an important indicator of the degree to which Ontario’s labour market will become increasingly strained, which could potentially constrain economic growth.”

Everything from construction work and emergency repairs to home-care services could be affected by a shortage of qualified employees.

The Conference Board of Canada report was commissioned by a new coalition of experts, called Ontario’s Workforce Shortage Coalition, which has united to help the province focus on this potential threat to the province’s economy.

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Get the coalition report

The coalition includes the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, the College Student Alliance, Colleges Ontario, CON*NECT, the Council of Ontario Construction Associations, the Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Ontario Mining Association, the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association, the Power Workers’ Union, Retail Council of Canada, Skills-Canada Ontario, Ontario Environment Industry Association, Ontario General Contractors Association, Greater Toronto Hotel Association, Toronto Financial Services Alliance, Alliance of Ontario Food Processors, and the Ontario Tourism Council.

While the coalition acknowledges that some measures have been taken by both federal and provincial governments, including Employment Ontario, apprenticeship tax credits and the recently announced Provincial Nominee Program, it’s urging the skills shortage threat be given higher priority. The coalition is calling on Ontario’s political leaders to commit to establishing a comprehensive provincial skills strategy. The report released today points to some potential solutions, such as better education and training of under-represented groups.

As a first step, the coalition says Ontario must establish a Premier’s Council on Skills that brings the province’s experts together to develop a strategy.

“Employers throughout the tourism sector are already feeling the labour crunch,” said Terry Mundell, president of the Greater Toronto Hotel Association. “The skills shortage is a significant challenge for the hotel industry and tourism as a whole. Since tourism represents 19 per cent of Ontario’s businesses, this is serious.”

“Despite efforts to date, Ontario is still facing a labour shortage of crisis proportions,” said Len Crispino, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “It will take a combined effort on the part of all stakeholders, to identify and implement long-term solutions, learning from successful efforts outside of our borders and taking full advantage of the people and resources here in Ontario, to ensure that our province continues to be a prosperous place to live and to do business.”

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