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Skills Shortages and the Education System

One of the biggest challenges facing businesses in the coming years is going to be finding enough qualified people to meet their needs. In Canada the province that is at the forefront of this wave is Alberta, where their major cities have experienced boom times from the oil and gas industry. The Alberta provincial government have a number of initiatives underway to address both labor and skills shortages. Their strategies fall under the primary categories of Inform, Attract, Develop and Retain ... which all seems so logical.

For me it begs the question, does the whole of Canada need to reach the same critical point as Alberta before we see some real action here? When are governments and educational establishments going to stop talking and implement some real solutions? Having said that are companies going to wait until the crisis is upon them before they get involved and become a part of the solution?

For the past several years Eagle has contributed scholarships at three different colleges in Calgary, Ottawa and Toronto. Every year we give 14 scholarships of $500 each in the hope that it will be used to encourage kids into the technology field.

I think the idea was reasonable. I think that the execution leaves a little to be desired. Here is how it appears to work ...

Each year we get invited to the award ceremonies for those who have won the scholarships. I have yet to me a winner who came into the technology field because of the scholarship. I have met winners who on completion of their training are now working in other fields. I have met winners who knew nothing about the scholarship until months after they graduated! How is that going to help?

I accept blame here, (a) I threw money at a problem and assumed that those receiving the money would know how to use it; (b) I have known about this problem for a few years and have not devoted the time and energy from my company to educate the educators about how to best use the money; (c) I have not looked for other solutions.

Having said that ... is it unreasonable to expect large educational establishments to have programs that will use these kind of incentives to attract students who might otherwise have been unable or unwilling to enter a technology program?

Education is just one of the ways to tackle the skills shortage but it is an important part, and generally in Canada we are just not doing a good job! So ... I have many times suggested that companies need to get involved with programs like Eagle's scholarship program. I have not changed my mind on that, I just now believe that we need to educate the educators about how to use those programs effectively!