Originally published in The Hill Times
In its September 2020 Speech from the Throne, the Federal government committed to making “the largest investment in Canadian history in training for workers.” That investment will be crucial to achieving the ambitious Federal goal of creating over one million jobs in order to restore employment to pre-pandemic levels.
Simply put, achieving that goal will require cooperation between governments, educators, and industry. The government needs to identify partners that can maximize the impact of Federal spending on workforce training. In particular, in order for a generational investment in training to have deep and lasting effects, it needs to fund inclusive skills programs that prepare workers for the green, sustainability-focussed jobs of today and the future. That kind of approach will be especially crucial to training Indigenous peoples and young Canadians who are looking for ways to succeed in a changing economy.
As governments know, workers must also be the cornerstone for building a stronger and more resilient economy in the aftermath of COVID-19. To ensure that workers enjoy the full benefits of the recovery from COVID-19, governments, educators, and employers need to collaborate on projects that will create and maintain good jobs, are good for the environment, are inclusive, and address socio-economic inequality.
The needs for sustainable job creation will vary across the country. But, from developing brand new curriculum for people entering the emerging hydrogen sector in Alberta to offering programs to update workers’ skills for the growing electric vehicle manufacturing industry in Ontario, the opportunities are endless.
Some stakeholder groups are already looking for ways to partner with government on meeting that challenge and exploring the associated opportunities. For instance, Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery (C2R2) is a group of colleges, CEGEPs, training institutions, and polytechnics from across the country that have joined forces to educate a post-pandemic workforce to support a climate-focused economic recovery from COVID-19.
With Federal partnership, C2R2 members stand ready to rapidly train workers across Canada, including people who are currently under-represented in the workforce, to meet skills gaps for a climate-resilient economy. We will help our communities revive and develop Canadian businesses through applied solutions to sustainability challenges. And our members will work with local industry and governments to serve as testing sites for innovative climate change solutions.
The Federal government could support that work in many ways, from funding rapid training programs to ensuring that training credits and grants allow for students to continue working while they gain new skills. But the bottom line is that educators need support to skill-up the workforce of tomorrow – which is why we are excited by the Government’s commitment to generational investments in Canadian workers.
The goals are ambitious, but we have to be ambitious to succeed and ensure a strong, resilient recovery for Canada. Canadian colleges have always risen to the challenge of ensuring that Canadian workers are trained for the jobs of tomorrow. We stand ready to get that job done once again.
By Ron McKerlie | Ron McKerlie is Chair of Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery and President of Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario