Friday, October 25, 2013

Where did all our skilled workers go?

By Gary Mason

Once upon a time, shop class was mandatory in most high schools. There was a belief that even if a student wasn’t intent on becoming a mechanic or carpenter, having some basic life skills in these areas wasn’t a bad thing.

Over time, however, shop began to look dated and irrelevant and was given less status. Somewhere along the way, it was drilled into students that the only way to get ahead in life was to go to university and earn a degree.

Occupations such as plumbers and pipefitters were looked down upon. They were the bedrock of blue-collar careers and commanded little respect. The people who made the big bucks wore white shirts and ties and owed their well-paying jobs to the swishy institutions of higher learning they attended. Kids and parents were told that in the future, most jobs would require a BA at minimum.

Today, Canada is dealing with the fallout from its ivory tower preoccupation. (We produce more university and college graduates, per capita, than most countries in the world.) We have an acute shortage of workers who actually build and fix things. It represents an alarming structural deficit that could cost the economy billions.

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Asia Pacific Gateway Skills Table wishes to acknowledge the funding support from the Sector Council Program, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative led by Transport Canada.