Recently, I was asked to sit in on a stakeholder consultation hosted by representatives of the Forum of Labour Market Ministers (FLMM).They are developing a new national model for a system to produce Labour Market information (LMI) and they were seeking input from interested parties. Other consultants included representatives of business - small, medium and large, career professionals, human resource professionals, and academics. The effort to develop a new regimen was partly inspired by national angst about the current quality and quantity of Canadian LMI, and was building upon earlier work done by the FLMM. Back in 2009, the Labour Market Information Advisory Panel (LMIAP), commissioned by the FLMM, called for “greater strategic direction for LMI policy and increased collaboration and coordination among key stakeholders to strengthen the value and effectiveness of LMI in Canada.” If we have an LMI problem in Canada (we do) perhaps this six year lag between report and action points to an area needing attention.
The consultation focused on two areas – opportunities to create a better LMI system, and how that system might be governed. Representing CACEE, I called for enhanced communication between employers and higher education, focusing on the development of common language and outcomes (skills / competencies). As one of the consultants, it would be inappropriate for me to comment explicitly on what others shared, but I’m comfortable saying there was general agreement on the need for enhanced LMI, and support for this initiative. I can also share that there was lots of discussion about the challenges and opportunities, but considerably less about the governance question. Consultants understood that labour is the purview of the provinces, and that we were talking about reforming fourteen systems (ten provinces, three territories, one federal), not just one. We might know what we want but we do not how to make it happen, or even begin. But it looks like we’re trying, and that can only be a good thing.
Sidebar: Over the past year or so I have been involved in a number of conversations about skills and the labour market. I’ve observed a common phenomenon - the discussions take place at a strategic level, with little regard for tactical elements. But what if the solution to our LMI issue involves a tactical adaptation? Every conversation about LMI, and the related skills gap debate, seems to start with the assumption that education / training / hiring need to be reinvented. These conversations are fascinating, and they are worth the time, but it’s just possible that an investment in an old tactic might help resolve the question. A renewed commitment to relationship based campus recruiting would address the problem, at least in part. And this would be a lot easier to do than the reinvention of fourteen labour systems AND the remaking of university and college mandates.
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