A new report is urging Ottawa to work with the provinces and industry to put a stop to what it calls an "alarming slide" in the quality of Canada's education and skills training.
A paper commissioned by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives is being released ahead of this week's meeting of Canada's provincial education and labour ministers and industry representatives in Charlottetown.
The report says only the federal government can lead and create a national education and skills training strategy.
It urges Ottawa, the provinces and the territories to form a body that's responsible for learning and training, which would set targets for all learning phases.
The report recommends creating a separate body to keep track of how well the country is meeting its learning goals.
'Canada is slipping steadily'
The paper cites statistics from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and other sources that "point to the irrefutable conclusion that Canada is slipping steadily down the international learning curve."
"The report we are publishing this week recommends a formal federal-provincial body to oversee learning and training in Canada," council spokesman Ross Laver said in an email.
"Not everyone would go that far, but there's no question we need a lot more co-operation and collaboration between different levels of government."
He also lamented the fact the country's labour ministers have met only once in the past four years, to discuss a job grant proposal at the urging of federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney.
"The minister deserves a lot of credit for trying to get everyone around the same table," Laver said.
"The irony is that he and Canada's provincial education ministers are actually going to be staying this week in the same hotel in Charlottetown — yet for the past four months the education ministers have refused to meet him.
"How can Canada hope to maintain a world-class labour force when the people who are in charge of developing education and training policy won't talk to one another?"
Private sector urged to do its part
The report also says the private sector needs to invest in more programs and training for their employees. It contrasts the situation in Canada to that of Germany, where employers work with governments and educators to create a highly skilled labour force.
"The German system ensures close co-ordination and co-operation between levels of government and with social partners...," it says.
"The close involvement of employers and employees at the national and state level promotes a powerful sense of responsibility among corporations that is reflected in their commitment to skills upgrading in the workplace."
Kenney has spoken highly of the German apprenticeship system. Earlier this year, he led a delegation of Canadian politicians from five provinces, along with business and labour union representatives, on a trip to Germany and Great Britain to learn about their apprenticeship programs.