Though Canada's unemployment rate held steady in June at 7.1 per cent, many economists believe it would have dropped if there were more skilled workers to fill the increasing number of positions going unfilled in Canada's trades sector.
One of those is Michael Bloom, vice-president of organizational effectiveness and learning at the Conference Board of Canada. In an interview on CBC's Lang & O'Leary Exchange, he said the government needs to do more to encourage young Canadians to enter skilled trades.
In June, the unemployment rate among those age 15-24 rose to 13.8 per cent, up from 13.6 per cent in May, as more young Canadians entered the labour market.
Those are the people that have to be convinced to enter skilled trades, Bloom says.
"Only 6 per cent of students in upper secondary school, within 2 years of completing high school, have actually chosen to go along a vocational path towards a trade or technical occupation".
"We don't get enough of that here, especially compared to the Europeans".
In many northern and central European countries, including Switzerland and Germany, there are robust apprenticeship programs. In both of those countries, youth unemployment is very low compared to Canada and the U.S.
A big problem, Bloom says, is the negative reputation associated with skilled trades.
"Somehow we need to do more in this country to create a sense of the value of [being in a skilled trade]".
The idea that trades pay less is also outdated, Bloom says, as pay in most trades can be as high as professions requiring a university degree. Those benefits need to be communicated to Canadian high school students to help close the skills gap, Bloom argues.
"It's not about not earning a good living, it's about making the choices at the right time for yourself, and then going where the jobs are."