Additional skills provide opportunities for UM Alumni
Experts discuss preparing for the labour market
A skilled labour shortage in Manitoba is creating opportunities for UM Alumni but they need to be prepared in order to benefit.
“Canada does not have enough workers for the future,” says Yvonne Kinley from Economic Development Winnipeg. Kinley joined Extended Education’s Acting Dean Rod Lastra and Program Manager Paul Jenkins for our Homecoming 2022 webinar.
According to Statistics Canada, all provinces except the Maritimes are continuing to experience low unemployment and our population growth has slowed, from 1.2 per cent in 2019 to .only 71 per cent in 2020. As well, the gap between the general population and the working-age population is growing.
“We need to build a sustainable talent pipeline. The goal is to create a robust economy to provide opportunities for the future. Investment follows talent,” says Kinley.
She explains that skilled workers earn higher wages and support economic growth. Manitoba businesses want to increase their ability to retain youth and attract skilled workers from other provinces. More skilled workers can attract more companies that create more jobs.
“There is a global shortage of talent.”
Understand employer need
To benefit from this shortage, graduates must understand what their potential employers need. Businesses are looking to increase their productivity and potential employees should showcase what they can do to support and improve business.
“Businesses love hiring UM grads. They have fantastic knowledge. But they are also wishing students had more chances for business experience and to develop skills you need to have for a job. Those are what we call the soft or power skills. The way to improve them is by sheer practice. Work opportunities are really important to gain skills. Businesses have a role to provide them,” says Kinley.
Retired professionals and fellow alumni can also mentor and create experience opportunities. “A lot of small businesses don’t have the opportunity to offer mentorships. In other countries, for example, they are tapping into the retirement community.”
She reminds grads that not all jobs require a degree from a specific faculty or school. For example, Arts and Science graduates looking for work should consider how to articulate their skills and how those skills might align with business needs. “Don’t just say you have an Arts degree in History. What can you do? That is so important. Translate what you are able to do into business language.”
Struggles to define skills
Understand that businesses are struggling to figure out their current operating models due to many factors: COVID-19, supply chain issues, international wars and conflicts. The move to working from home means any company can now poach local talent. Busy leaders are trying to figure out what they need and how to find it. Articulating this is a challenge because there is no common language for skills. And when it comes to post-secondary training with a large institution like UM, they are often unsure how to go about it.
That’s where Canada’s Skills Strategy comes in. But we don’t have one yet.
While other places like Singapore and the United Kingdom have a skills and qualifications framework and learning strategy, “Within Canada, there is no national strategy,” says Rod Lastra. “We need to work together to reimagine learning for a working world.”
Lastra highlights how the working world is changing from an industrial one to a digital one. “The transition will require upskilling and reskilling (continuing education). A major shift in skills is needed for economic development based on the requirements of industry,” he says.
The current labour market has its challenges. Unemployment of Indigenous, minorities, and adults 55 and older is high. Not everyone has equal access to reliable internet. Parents need childcare. Lifelong learning must be accessible and equitable, says Kinley.
The business community is interested in diversity and inclusion. And from a business perspective, lifelong learning involves more than just university. It’s not the university’s role to fill every need. The value to the employer is to be able to train a person in a short amount of time in order to increase productivity.
“It’s not as straightforward as taking a course and moving forward in your career.”
Paul Jenkins agrees, noting he often receives requests for faster and cheaper education options from partner organizations.
So, businesses need skilled workers. Graduates need skills. What are those skills and who needs to contribute in order for you to get them? The discussion continues.
In the meantime, post-secondary must prepare youth for work and grads have additional opportunities to embrace lifelong learning.
For grads, being self-aware is very important, says Lastra. “To learn a lot of soft skills and apply critical thinking.
“The future is uncertain. It will include disequilibrium and disruption. It will require a greater collaboration between education and business, innovation in higher learning, and refining lifelong learning,” he says.
Graduates will need to upskill and reskill in order to succeed in their careers. But they are starting with a good foundation.
“It is surprising how much people don’t know about what we do know… You know more than you think you know.”
Take that knowledge, and build on it.