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Shortage of Skilled Workers

Essay by   •  November 8, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  1,881 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,475 Views

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It is 1am on a summer Saturday night, the wind is gently blowing through your hair and your favorite song is playing on the radio. The stress of your daily, white-collar routine is left behind for just one night – a single evening out with your friends to catch up on the chaos of your lives. You cannot help but enjoy this rare crack in your hectic, nine-to-five schedule; a fleeting moment when everything feels right and you feel free. In the distance, you notice flashing lights. Thinking little of what they could mean, you continue your journey. Suddenly, you come face-to-face with one of the most despised enemies of urban life: traffic. As you slow to a grinding halt, you cannot help but feel irritation, anger and helplessness. It is ruined. Your one night is completely ruined. As you take your place in the endless parking lot that was once a four-lane highway, you realize that the source stoppage is a massive construction project. You look and hear them pound at the pavement with their jackhammers. Trying to control your frustration, you take a deep breath, exhale, and turn your head away. Again, you feel the victim of this deepening social crisis: the shortage of skilled workers.

You may have heard the topic raised on some morning show or another, but likely thought little of it. However, the figures are quite shocking. According to one author’s research, “52 percent of skilled trades are expected to retire within the next 15 years, with 41 per cent of respondents indicating they will face a skills shortage in their industry within five years.” (Arnold, par. 12).

The shortage of skilled workers in the coming decade poses a serious threat to all aspects of the Canadian economy. Like all others, our economy is comprised of three major elements: primary products, secondary goods and services. My research indicates that primary products constitute just over 7% of Canada's GDP, secondary goods account for 21%, and the services comprise 72%. This distribution although heavily in favor of the service industry still shows the importance of the secondary/manufacturing industry in Canada’s modern day economy. Taking into fact that since the late nineteenth century, Canada's centre of manufacturing is focused in two provinces, Ontario and Quebec. Consistently, year after year, Ontario contributes about 50% of the Canadian total of manufactured goods produced, measured by value, and Quebec 25%. Looking at the figures and the sources of production, one cannot help but realize that this issue hits very close to home. One author has expressed this concern “Manufactured products cannot be made without machinery; and machinery simply wouldn’t be available without the men and women who work as tool and die makers” (Eby, par. 6). According to that statement, the lack of production from the manufacturing sector will severely handicap Canada’s service industry that contributes to three quarters of Canada’s gross domestic product. The issue is clear, without skilled trade’s workers Canada’s secondary industry will suffer to the point where Canada’s gross domestic product will take a dramatic hit, which will eventually severely hinder Canada’s performance in today’s competitive global market.

Human resources management can be viewed as a set of interrelated policies, programs and practices whose main goals are to attract, socialize, motivate, maintain and retain employees. In reference to that definition, the shortage of skilled trade’s workers creates a large obstacle in the human resources practices and policies of many firms in both the private and public sectors. The impact that the shortage will have on recruitment and selection is a vast one. The first process in recruitment is generating a pool of applicants. As you can imagine if there are not enough people to generate a pool of the desired size, the HR department will be forced to work with an unsatisfactory amount of candidates. As such, the selection process, which deals with the choice of job candidates from a previously generated pool of applicants, will be hindered. This in turn has an adversely large impact on training as well as development. Companies will have to spend more money on training these workers that are not up to par with the current generation of skilled trade’s workers. Even once the training is complete, how well the workers develop and absorb that training should also be questioned. If the work being done is of poor quality it would eventually lead to the demise of the business. The key competency on which trainers will have to focus is the transfer of knowledge, it is absolutely necessary that full advantage of transfer of knowledge and skill acquired on the job is passed onto the new generation of workers if proficient operations are to be maintained. The human resources department is not the only entity that the shortage will have a negative impact on. Consumers as well as organizations will be affected. According to my research, it takes 90 to 120 days to build a house, with the shortage of bricklayers and framers it will take 120 to 150 days. Although it may not seem like a large difference to some, the building that is prolonged by one month will have an adverse impact on the real estate market as well. The previous example is used to illustrate the domino effect the shortage will create if proper training and recruitment techniques are not in place.

Baby boomers are one of the factors contributing to the shortage and one of the more puzzling issues in today’s economy. Baby boomers are typically people born in a period of increased birth rates following World War II (1946-1964). As such the influx of people which entered the labor market at their destined time was much higher than was ever precedent. In retrospect, the amount of baby boomers retiring within the next two decades will pose a serious issue for Human Resources as well as the economy in general. As one author notes “A 1999 study for the Canadian Auto Repair Sector, for example, showed 50 per cent of its workforce was over the age of 40 and just under 7 per cent were between the ages of 20 and 25” (Arnold, par. 11). Taking into equation the kind of work performed by skilled trade’s workers it is clear to see as to why a larger number of them are going into retirement earlier as compared to the white-collar workers. All trades work requires physical labor and over a certain time-span it makes the body lose its efficiency in performing the work that is required, as opposed to white-collar work that requires very little physical exertion. According to one source “The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters estimates 35 per cent of its skilled labour will retire in the next 10

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