The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is calling on the federal parties to solve the gap between the skills employees have and the ones employers actually need.

Perrin Beatty, the CEO and president of the chamber, said the skills gap costs the Ontario economy about $24 billion in lost GDP each year. He didn't have numbers for Alberta.

In an event at the Shell Manufacturing Centre at NAIT in Edmonton, Beatty outlined five ways to address the problem, which are outlined in a new report, Fragmented Systems: Connecting Players in Canada's Skills Challenge. 

  • Canada needs to improve labour market information. Business needs to know where to find people. Students need to know what skills are needed most by employers;
  • The immigration system needs to address gaps in Canada's workforce;
  • Government needs to track what skills are learned by post-secondary students and the jobs they get after graduation;
  • Create incentives for companies to keep apprentices until the end of their training;
  • Create work placements and applied research projects for students to better prepare them for the workforce.

Beatty said colleges and universities need to be better aligned with the job market.

"The best insurance that any individual can have against economic shifts is skills, education and experience," he said.

Ken Kobly, president and CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, said he endorsed the report and called on the federal government to provide better information about the labour market.

Although Alberta's unemployment rate has risen, Kobly said there are some areas of the province, such as Camrose and Drumheller, that have  labour shortages. 

Kobly said the discussion about job creation in the federal election campaign needs to expand to include skills development. 

"Without skills development ... frustration and the mismatch of skills will continue, and that's simply not acceptable in Canada," he said.

Janet Riopel, president and CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, echoed the need for better labour market information. 

She said the skill gap issue has to be discussed during the federal election.

"No matter what the outcome is on Oct. 19, this is a fundamental issue that has to be a top priority," she said.