ADAM HURAS Legislature Bureau
May 14, 2014
Economic development consultant David Campbell addresses those attending a provincial job summit in Fredericton on Tuesday.
Photo: Adam Huras/Legislature Bureau
FREDERICTON • A provincial jobs summit has resulted in a call for strengthened efforts at the high school level to educate students about a looming shortage of workers.
It has also called on businesses to provide more timely and accurate labour market information on where jobs will be vacated so that the education system can gear itself toward training New Brunswickers to fill the void.
More than 200 individuals, stakeholders, business leaders, academics and education leaders attended the two-day provincial jobs summit in Fredericton that ended on Tuesday.
The provincial government has also organized a job fair to take place on Wednesday in the capital city, where roughly 300 vacant jobs from 40 different New Brunswick employers are expected to be available.
Economic development consultant David Campbell closed the summit pledging a full report to be released in June that chronicles action items emerging from the event.
But Campbell, who moderated expert panels held throughout the summit, said some suggestions from roundtable discussion were already evident.
“It does look like the roundtables believe a lot more work has to be done at the high school level in terms of educating young people about available jobs, particularly in the vocational fields like construction, where we are seeing a lot more retirement in the coming years,” he said.
The summit had heard from Michael Haan, University of New Brunswick professor and Canada research chair in population and social policy, who said 40,000 jobs in New Brunswick will go unfilled in the span of a decade if population trends continue.
But Haan said there is little data available that truly enumerates exactly what professions need workers beyond the trades that have already signalled concerns.
“There was a lot of talk as well about the importance of businesses providing more timely and accurate labour market information,” Campbell said. “A lot of the labour market information now is top down; it comes from statistics.
“There is a lot of discussion around better information coming from the firms.”
Campbell said the summit’s roundtables determined that unions and other third-party groups could also play a part in pinpointing where skills development programs are needed.
The use of online tools was also a focus, Campbell said.
A new job board and career information website has now been launched by the provincial government to centralize the job search for New Brunswickers.
The new website, nbjobs.ca, stated that 1,567 jobs were available as of Tuesday evening.
There is also a call for a more inclusive workforce to meet the jobs demand.
“With an aging population and other demographic challenges, the writing is on the wall,” said Krista Carr with the New Brunswick Disability Executives’ Network. “We’re headed for some serious labour shortages. Some we are already seeing. So we need to change the landscape in New Brunswick over the next five to 10 years to see a measurable increase of persons with disabilities in the provincial labour force.”
A total of 17.2 per cent of New Brunswickers self-identify as having a disability – the second-largest percentage of people living with a disability in the country, according to provincial government statistics.
But those New Brunswickers make up only 5.8 per cent of the province’s labour force.
Krista Carr said hiring people with a disability is going to be an “economic imperative.”
She said that employers are largely unaware of the on-the-job services, programs and funding that is available to support hiring a person with disability.
The Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training, and Labour has 23 employability assistance services contracts in place to help people with disabilities get jobs, Carr said.
She called for greater awareness of those programs.
Aboriginal leaders have similarly called on government to see First Nations more involved to fill vacant jobs.
Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Jody Carr stated that government will act on the report coming from the summit.
“We’ve heard discussions that are going to lead to further concrete actions and we’ve heard inspiring presentations from well-known leaders in economic development, employers, and from each other,” Carr said. “I’m looking forward to the outcome and the next steps.”