British Columbia is losing out on as much as $4.7 billion in economic activity and $616 million in provincial tax revenues annually because too few residents have the education and skills needed to help businesses innovate and grow in today’s economy, according to a recent report from the Conference Board of Canada, Skills for Success: Developing Skills for a Prosperous B.C.
The report furthers states that an additional $1.3 billion in economic activity and $169 million in tax revenues are lost annually due to skills mismatches—when some B.C. residents are employed in occupations that do not make full use of their higher education and skills.
“There is a disconnect between the education and skills that employers need, and those that employees and graduates have,” said Daniel Munro, principal research associate, industry and business strategy. “B.C. has bright economic prospects, including growth as a global trade hub, the development of new knowledge-based industries, and major infrastructure and resource projects. But B.C. employers are having difficulty finding people with the education and skills they need to pursue those opportunities.”
The Conference Board of Canada conducted a survey of 854 B.C. employers—covering over 130,000 employees—to determine which skills, occupations, and credentials are required by employers to meet current and future needs.
Employers who responded to the Conference Board’s B.C. Skills Survey expect to have greatest difficulty finding qualified employees for jobs in business, finance, and administration (35 per cent); trades, transport, equipment operators, and related occupations (30 per cent); and sales and service occupations (23 per cent). Across all occupational categories, B.C. employers are especially motivated to find managers and supervisors due to an emerging “experience gap” as managers and other workers retire over the next five to ten years.
B.C. employers will be looking for post-secondary graduates with university degrees (57 per cent); college diplomas (44 per cent) and certificates (41 per cent); and applied degrees (24 per cent). They are most interested in graduates of business and management programs, computer and information sciences, communications, and engineering and electronics. A third of employers will also be looking for people with trades qualifications and certificates.
Employers are also concerned about deficits in essential skills in the workforce, especially critical thinking and problem-solving (73 per cent), oral communication (38 per cent), literacy (36 per cent), and working with others (33 per cent). Critically, B.C. employers note that they are looking not simply for people to fill specific jobs, but employees with the essential skills, attitudes and behaviours needed to learn and adapt to changing circumstances, innovate and help pursue new opportunities, and address emerging challenges.