How the federal government is investing in skills training, and what that could mean for P.E.I.

As technology advances, the workplace continues to change, and the federal government wants to know what skills will be valued over the next decade.

The government is investing $225 million over 4 years into future skills development

Sandy MacDonald is the president of Holland College and represents Atlantic Canada on the Future Skills Council. (Submitted by Holland College)

A member of a new cross-Canada initiative to develop a skilled workforce wants to see investments made in P.E.I. and across the Atlantic region.

Sandy MacDonald, who is also the president of Holland College, is one of 15 members of the Future Skills Council — a component of a federal government program that aims to identify where the Canadian economy is heading and what skills will be required.

The government is investing $225 million over four years in the Future Skills program, which started in spring 2018, and $75 million per year thereafter into future skills development.

Another component of the program is the Future Skills Centre stationed at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Hoping for investments in Atlantic Canada

MacDonald said the council is providing a variety of perspectives to the government on how workplaces continue to change, and what skills will be valued over the next decade.

"The idea of the skills council is to look at possible projects and possible interventions, new approaches to skills that will then be tested out at the national lab centre."

He is hoping some of the skills money comes to Holland College — but also hopes to see it come to other institutions throughout the region.

"The federal government wants the input of colleges and trainers, to give them some indication on where they should be spending their money," he said.

Already seeing a skills decline

As the representative for Atlantic Canada MacDonald already sees a decline in skilled workers.

"There is a labour shortage; there is also a skills shortage," he said.

Part of the work the council is doing includes sending a survey to stakeholders about what skills they will need in the future.

"It is the first time in memory that we have done this type of research directly with the industry stakeholders to get a feel for exactly what they want." MacDonald said.

Employers want more than technical skill

Employers don't only want technical skills, MacDonald said. They want to see leadership, communication and the ability to work with others.

"We get a lot of concerns about advanced manufacturing," he said. "The skills associated with that whole industry and all it encompasses. You have not only the technical skills that are going to be increasingly required, but also what are sometimes called the essential, or employment, or social, or 21st century skills."

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With files from Angela Walker