EDMONTON – Well over half of Alberta’s employers are facing difficulties finding the employees they need, a Statistics Canada-sponsored conference in Edmonton was told this week.
The highest employment growth in Alberta has been in the public sector and the oil and gas sector, more than 200 participants in the Alberta Labour Force Strategies Conference were informed, said AUPE Research Officer Aaron Mireau.
But some of the strategies proposed at the May 29 event for dealing with Alberta’s labour shortage are of great concern to AUPE and unions generally, said Mireau, who attended the day-long conference.
“I would call the over-all tone of this conference one of ‘pessimistic optimism,’” Mireau said. “Most participants agreed Alberta is facing a labour crunch and that it needs strategies for dealing with it.”
However, he said, the 10-year “Building and Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce” strategy put forward by Alberta Human Resources and Employment Assistant Deputy Minister Susan Williams contained bad ideas as well as good ones.
“The plan talks about how government should ensure that regulations don’t place an unnecessary burden on employers,” he said. “Another main focus is attracting more foreign workers by encouraging Ottawa to speed up the immigration and temporary foreign worker processes.”
The plan also calls for increasing flexibility in pension plans, he noted.
“Immigrants are a valuable part of our multicultural society and play a vital role in our workforce, but I don’t think the government has thought about all the consequences of shipping in foreign workers carte-blanche,” Mireau said.
“In addition, their plan also neglects the important role women could play if barriers were removed to allow the option for mothers to get back into the labour force,” he said.
“We are strongly opposed to the province trying to use immigrant workers to continue to hold down the real wages of Alberta workers, which have been stagnant in Alberta for many years,” he said.
“We provided the government with AUPE’s position on this strategy back in March and it obviously wasn’t taken seriously,” Mireau added.
Information highlights from presentations by AHRE and Statistics Canada economists included:
- At 3.5 per cent, Alberta has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada and in most of North America.
- 56 per cent of employers in Alberta are experiencing hiring difficulties.
- Alberta is still attracting many people from outside the province as indicated by the continuous rise in net inter-provincial migration numbers, over 15,000 in the third quarter of 2005. This trend is expected to continue into the future.
- B.C. is now challenging Alberta from an economic output perspective and it will become increasingly more difficult to attract out-of-province workers.
- To keep up with expected economic output, Alberta will need to fill more than 400,000 new jobs over the next 10 years and find 1.5 million more workers over the next 25 years.
- The highest growth in employment has been in the oil and gas industry and the public sector.