The Alberta Federation of Labour reacted swiftly today to the release of a new Conference Board of Canada report saying that by 2025, Alberta will have an annual shortfall of 332,000 workers. The AFL challenged the assumptions made by the report, and argued the report is just more of the reckless thinking that is overheating Alberta's economy.
"Quite frankly, their numbers on the labour shortage are just ludicrous," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "They are based upon the assumption that current growth patterns will continue for 20 years, and there will be no net in-migration to Alberta from other provinces. Both assumptions are wrong. It is clearly designed to create the biggest shock possible."
"More importantly, its recommendation for the massive use of temporary foreign workers doesn't fix the problem," adds McGowan. "Current training and apprenticeship programs in Alberta are sorely lacking - something the Conference Board points out in its study."
McGowan points to the AFL's recent report, Beyond Chicken Little, which outlined that the core of Alberta's short term labour difficulties rests in its poor apprenticeship completion rates and inadequate investment in training. Less than half of students enrolled in apprenticeship complete their apprenticeship on time. This is due in large part to the fact that less than 55% of construction employers use apprentices - there is nowhere for apprentices to learn the trade.
Of more concern is that the Report is a perpetuation of short-term thinking that permeates Alberta decision-makers. "The status quo approach is 'take the money and run'. We are seeing no long term planning, no attempt to manage the pace of economic growth, or to prevent the oilsands from overheating our economy," observes McGowan. "It is irresponsible."
The AFL argues that we need to develop an economic development vision for Alberta, which takes into account the level of development that can be sustained over time without damaging the labour market or the environment.
"We can prevent labour shortages by pacing our growth and by fixing our flawed training systems," notes McGowan. "Panicked reports screaming about massive labour shortages do not make our economy more sustainable. Only changing our attitudes about economic development will."
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For more information call:
Gil McGowan, AFL President @ (780) 915-4599 (cell)