One of the highlights of Thursday’s federal budget was the Canada Job Grant, which provides funding to train people for industries dealing with a shortage of skilled workers.
The government announced a plan to increase the number of skilled workers in Canada by committing $5,000 for upgrading or training if the province and employers kick-in an equal amount.
Steve England, vice president of operations at Cherubini Metals, said his company has had so much trouble trying to find skilled workers, it’s had to rely on skilled foreign workers to fill the gap.
"We're looking for fitter/fabricators right now," he said. "And that's a highly skilled trade. Certainly we could employ anywhere from 25 to 30, put them in our shops tomorrow and keep them busy for years, but the unfortunate thing is we just can't find them, can't locate them."
England said he’s worried Atlantic Canada won't be able to upgrade or train enough skilled workers to get the big contracts like the $30-billion shipbuilding the province won in 2011.
Gerald Walsh, president of recruiting company Gerald Walsh Associates Inc., said businesses need to do their part to increase the number of skilled workers.
"Businesses are not immune to some of the blame here. They expect sometimes for employees to arrive or students to arrive fully skilled," he said. "I would like to see the reintroduction of some apprenticeship-type programs or have businesses come back onto campuses to recruit into management training programs."
Brad Smith, executive director of Mainland Nova Scotia Building Trades Council, said apprenticeship programs are important.
"Some of the owners in big companies out west are already doing this," he said. "So the government is actually following the private sector on this one a little bit and by doing that, and requiring that, then we can assure the apprentices are getting their hours for their skills training."
But England said all this will take time.
"If something doesn't change, if we don't streamline the foreign worker process, if we don't have skilled trades people -- there is going to be work that we won't be able to take on simply because we don't have the skilled trades, so essentially turning away work," said England.The federal government released its stay-the-course budget Thursday, with $900 million in new spending and the projected $6.6-billion drop in the deficit for 2014