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Skills Training & Education

Human capital is one of the most comprehensive files on the Council’s agenda. Primary education, industry training, the university system, immigrant integration and other human-capital issues are all crucial to BC’s economic development. As BC’s economy becomes increasingly dominated by skill-demanding industries, governments and businesses have a growing responsibility to help enhance the talents of British Columbians.

Will Future Labour Shortages Imperil the BC Economy?

The critical role of human capital in today’s economy, the fact that many employers continue to report difficulties finding qualified personnel, and demographic forecasts pointing to a steadily aging population and slower labour force growth all raise questions about the future supply of skills.

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The Link Between Post-Secondary Education and Employment Earnings

Does post-secondary education make a difference? It most definitely does.

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Critical Success Factors and Talent Risks for BC

The September issue of this newsletter reviewed the international, labour market and public policy contexts for talent mobility and development and briefly identified key success factors and risks for British Columbia in achieving its workforce development goals. In this month’s issue, we explore each of these areas and offer suggestions for ensuring an adequate labour supply and successful workforce development in BC.

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Math, Science and Reading in British Columbia

What were you doing at 15? Thinking about what career you were going to pursue as an adult? Probably not, and for most kids school is a bit of daily torture. Adults on the other hand are busy and constantly evaluating our children and teenagers on their reading, math and science skills, and often wringing our hands about test scores. For good reason. There is a strong correlation between how well educated we are and how well our economy performs both now and in the future.

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The Changing World of Post-Secondary Education

Outgoing UBC President Stephen Toope was interviewed for a story appearing in the Globe and Mail on June 27. In the interview, Dr. Toope touched on a number of challenges facing Canadian universities, including rising student expectations, governments’ interest in ensuring that post-secondary graduates are “job-ready,” and heightened international competition for top-ranked faculty and graduate students.

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Overqualified Workers and the BC Government’s “Skills for Jobs Blueprint”

Late last month the provincial government provided some details on its planned re-engineering of the public post-secondary education (PSE) and training system, which will see additional funding directed to expand capacity to educate/train young people in high-demand occupations – and, presumably, result in fewer dollars being available to fund programs in other parts of the PSE system. One of the key factors behind the revamp is a belief among policy-makers that the “supply” of and “demand” for skills are out of alignment in the current labour market.

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Women, Work and the Economy

In Canada and British Columbia, males and females are more or less equally represented in the total population (50% to 49%), and the picture is broadly similar in the labour force (52% men and 48% women).  However, females occupy a disproportionate percentage of part-time jobs, at 65%.  At the same time, females now receive 60% of all post-secondary degrees, diplomas and certificates awarded by universities, colleges and technical institutes.  Even so, on average women earn only ~68% of what male workers do, while having a life expectancy of 83 years – four years more than males.  What does this say about the lost opportunity for the Canadian and BC economies? 

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Skill Shortages: Weighing Employers' Views

While academic researchers and policy analysts continue to debate the extent and implications of skill shortages, employers in Canada seem convinced that shortages exist and are an important factor constraining business expansion.

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The Demand for and Supply of Skills

One of the puzzles in the contemporary Canadian labour market is the co-existence of skills shortages in some regions and occupations along with an unemployment rate hovering near 7% as well as mounting evidence of significant “under-employment” among many workers – particularly young adults. This situation suggests there are labour market imbalances, and that they appear to be growing larger over time. Many Business Council members tell us that British Columbia is experiencing mismatches in the demand for and supply of skills.

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Jobs, Income and Post-Secondary Education

By global standards, Canada is a well-educated nation. As of 2011, almost two-thirds of the population aged 25 to 64 had completed some form of post-secondary education (PSE) – 27% had a university degree (bachelor’s to doctorate), while 37% possessed a credential from a college, trades, vocational or other post-secondary education or training program. By this broad measure, Canada’s rate of post-secondary attainment is the highest in the world. This should be good news: a well-established trend across the advanced economies is that higher levels of education are generally linked to improved employment prospects as well as to a greater likelihood of being in the workforce.

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Finlayson: Labour shortages not about a shortage of workers (Troy Media)

An odd feature of today’s economy is the juxtaposition of widespread concerns about talent and labour shortages together with evidence that the incomes of many workers are under downward pressure.   While CEOs, human resource managers, and business gurus proclaim that recruiting, retaining and motivating skilled employees is key to their organizations’ success, a sizable body of economic data presents a somewhat different picture – one of predominantly stagnant real (inflation-adjusted) earnings for a significant fraction of the workforce.

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Finlayson: The Plight of the Overeducated Worker (Troy Media)

Statistics Canada’s latest Labour Force Survey points to a softening in the job market.  Across many advanced economies, employment has been slow to recover from the punishing blow delivered by the 2008-09 recession, with young adults in particular shouldering much of the burden.  Canada has done better than most, but even here the youth unemployment rate still hovers near 14%, double the overall rate.  Many young adults are finding the search for gainful employment tough sledding.

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The Plight of the Overeducated Worker

One feature of today’s labour market is the swelling ranks of what appear to be “over-qualified” or “over-educated” employees.

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BC Agenda For Shared Prosperity Final Report

September 25, 2013 (Vancouver, BC) – The Business Council of British Columbia and the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce today released the final report of the BC Agenda for Shared Prosperity initiative. For a year, the two organizations have sought expert and community-based answers to the question: “How can BC become a more prosperous province for all British Columbians?”

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Exports, Skills and Incomes

Small open economies depend heavily on trade to stimulate growth, provide employment and sustain incomes. The development of competitive export-oriented industries is particularly important for small regional economies that, by definition, aren’t able to reap the economic advantages associated with having large internal/domestic markets. British Columbia is a good case in point.

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The Skills to Pay the Bills

BC’s post secondary education system is a source of both pride and frustration; thinking about the system can prompt a sense of either optimism or pessimism about the future. On the positive side, BC has a great mix of world class research universities and regionally diverse colleges and technical institutes among today’s 25 publicly-funded post-secondary institutions. The University of BC is consistently ranked in the top 30 in the world (of over 17,000 universities), and BC consistently compares favourably among Canadian institutions on key metrics that measure the quality and effectiveness of its universities. Overall, our post-secondary system has many attractive and in some cases even world-class attributes.

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Jobs, Income and Post-secondary Education: Some Key Facts

The current tough job-market facing many freshly minted university and college graduates is causing some people to question whether it still makes economic sense for young adults to pursue a post-secondary education. For the most part the answer is “yes.” The data indicate that those with post-secondary credentials generally do better in the job market and also have higher incomes over the course of their working lives.

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Finlayson: The Education Wage Premium (Troy Media)

The past two years have witnessed considerable public and media interest in the issue of inequality, as evidenced by the emergence of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in the United States and its counterparts in several other countries.

Many studies confirm that income inequality has grown in many affluent nations. The trend is especially pronounced in the United States, where the richest 10 per cent of households have almost six times as much income as the bottom 10 per cent. The ratio is lower in Canada, but income disparities have widened here as well. And in many advanced economies a rising share of all income seems to be accruing to the top 1 per cent of earners.

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2013 Federal Budget: A Combination of Following Through, Fiscal Restraint and Some New Funding for Priority Areas

Against a backdrop of softer economic conditions, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tabled a budget still centered around achieving the Conservative government’s 2015-16 balanced budget target. To meet that objective, the Budget imposes meaningful but not draconian spending restraint. In turn, this left little capacity for much in the way of new spending or tax relief. The Budget does, however, direct additional funding to a few priority areas such as skills training and infrastructure investment.

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Finlayson: Canada's job machine is robust (Vancouver Sun)

Canada’s jobs machine is chugging along nicely even as the nation’s economy appears to be losing a step. Statistics Canada’s latest labour force survey reports that 51,000 jobs were created in February, far more than economic forecasters were anticipating.

On a six-month moving average basis, employment gains have been averaging 30,000 per month. The unemployment rate remained steady at seven per cent in February, as the number of labour force entrants offset the new positions created.

Drilling down into the data, private sector employment rose by 30,000 last month; since September 2012, Canadian businesses have been expanding their payrolls by 20,000 a month. By industry, job gains were concentrated in service-producing sectors, with professional, scientific and technical services and accommodation and foodservices emerging as notable hot spots. Manufacturing employment sagged and continues to trail the economy-wide job growth rate.

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