Report highlights pressing need for workforce development strategy



    TORONTO, June 19 /CNW/ - An analysis of economic trends in Ontario
underlines the urgent need for a comprehensive skills and workforce
development strategy to increase the province's competitiveness.
    Colleges Ontario's 2007 Environmental Scan examines a number of workforce
challenges - the increasing pace of technological change, falling productivity
in the face of growing international competition, and an aging workforce -
that require a proactive, co-ordinated strategy to strengthen Ontario's labour
force.
    "We have a serious problem with skills mismatches in Ontario and the time
for complacency is over," said Linda Franklin, President and CEO of Colleges
Ontario. "We have to act now - we can't wait until we have been eclipsed by
faster-moving competitors in the world economy."
    
    The report highlights several economic warning signs, including:

    -  Youth unemployment is higher in Ontario than in any other province
       outside of the Maritimes.

    -  Wages and participation rates of unskilled workers continue to fall
       due to globalization and technological change.

    -  Almost half of unemployed Ontarians have literacy scores below the
       level needed to cope with current skill demands for the economy.

    -  In just five years' time, fewer young people will be entering the
       workforce than are entering today, resulting in a greater demand on
       people already in the workforce to have skills and knowledge that are
       current and effective.

    -  70 per cent of all new jobs in Canada require some postsecondary
       education. Today, less than half of Canadians have postsecondary
       qualifications.
    

    The report points out that industries to be hit first by the declining
youth population will be those employing young workers, such as accommodation
and food services, retail, information, and culture and recreation.
    Sectors that employ older workers, including health care, manufacturing,
energy, and the public sector will be hit by the retirement boom as the first
of the baby boomers reach the age of 65 years starting in 2011.
    "As the economy relies more heavily on older workers, skills upgrading
and retraining for existing workers will continue to grow in importance," said
Franklin. "The fact is too many people don't have the right skills for the
jobs that are available. And those working will require continuous education
and re-training throughout their lives to update and transform their skill
sets to use new technology and meet new needs."
    Franklin said Ontario's 24 colleges, which successfully educate and train
students from every socioeconomic group and from all walks of life, are
uniquely positioned to work with government and industry in developing
solutions to Ontario's workforce challenges.
    "Ontario's future economic performance relies on investments in highly
skilled people, new technologies, innovation, and an educated citizenry," she
said. "The government must implement effective strategies to ensure that our
future labour force has the skills we need to compete in a tough world
economy."
    In addition to its analysis of economic trends and prospects, the 2007
Environmental Scan provides a full picture of college students and graduates
and their contribution to Ontario. It discusses college performance trends and
the perceptions of colleges held by Ontarians, which is taking on greater
significance as colleges work to attract more students and produce greater
numbers of college graduates.
    The report also examines college system resources, including capital and
operational funding, human resources, and student financial information, while
highlighting the continuing fiscal challenges facing the college sector.

    Colleges Ontario is the voice of Ontario's 24 colleges of applied arts
and technology, which deliver a wide range of career-focused education and
training programs to more than 150,000 full-time and 350,000 part-time
students. One third of Ontario's workforce or 2.1 million workers has a
college credential.

    Note: The 2007 Environmental Scan can be found at www.collegesontario.org





For further information:

For further information: Darrell Neufeld, Senior Communications Officer,
(416) 596-0744, ext. 242, neufeld@collegesontario.org


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