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    Workers, workers everywhere and not a job to spare: Skills shortage may be more fiction than fact

    Ohanian Comment: This reporter tells the story of an honors graduate working for minimum wage at Target and Starbuck's. Canadians are being fed the same education guarantees a good job message that students in the US here from kindergarten on. Canadians are also told (endlessly) that there's a skills shortage, that schools aren't adequately preparing children to be workers in the Global Economy. Here's a headline from the Vancouver Sun: A skill shortage, not unemployment, is looming. And another: Christy Clark promises action as numbers show a looming job skills shortage.

    By Jessica Barrett

    For Stephen Tarrant, fears of a looming skills shortage in Canada, particularly in the lucrative natural resources sector, are downright laughable.

    After six years of expensive, intensive post-secondary training, Tarrant graduated last year from Memorial University with a degree in economic geology, a published honours thesis and several terms of paid fieldwork under his belt.

    But in the year since leaving school, the 24-year-old has learned a harsh truth -- a degree tailor-made for the much-touted mining and energy sector does not guarantee a job in it.

    "I've probably had, without exaggeration, 300 applications sent to different companies across the country, and basically heard nothing back," a weary Tarrant said by phone earlier this month. He had just finished a long day serving Christmas shoppers for minimum wage at a Target store in St. John's.

    Tarrant's retail reality -- he holds another part-time gig at a Starbucks location -- is particularly bitter given the seemingly never-ending talk of skills shortages in a sector advertised as the future of Canada's economy. For him, each news story or government announcement on the topic feels like the twist of a knife.

    "I'm just flabbergasted," he said. "I don't understand how they're pumping this into students when I couldn't buy a job right now if I wanted one."

    The conflicting narratives of underemployed graduates and sector specific skills shortages have led to conclusions of a skills mismatch in Canada, but with more anecdotes like Tarrant's surfacing, some experts posit the disconnect lies somewhere else entirely.

    Rather than a mismatch of skills, the real culprit seems to be a lack of reliable, empirical data upon which to base more accurate economic projections. Derek Burleton, deputy chief economist with TD Economics, exposed Canada's dearth of job force data earlier this year with the release of a 55-page report questioning claims of an impending skills crisis.

    "We were forced to scratch together a lot of different sources," he said, noting Canada lacks a comprehensive database of job vacancies, and relies heavily on self-reporting from industry groups and surveys of online job banks.

    As a result, "we were not able to say if the (skills) mismatch is getting worse," he said.

    That's cold comfort for people like Tarrant, who are left with crushing disappointment and student debt when economic projections based on assumptions and estimations are presented as fact. In his case, a drop in commodities prices dissolved job prospects he had been banking on. Since then, Tarrant says, industry experts have told him "it will be years before the economy is able to support new geologists."

    The article then calls for "better data." You can continue reading here

    Vancouver Sun


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