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Developing Canada’s future workforce: A survey of large private-sector employers

To compete in an interconnected and global marketplace, Canadian companies require an increasingly strong and skilled workforce. However, a lack of comprehensive labour market data, particularly on employment trends and skill requirements, makes it difficult to identify and analyze the current state of the Canadian job market. This shortage of data means recent graduates are left to wonder whether they have the skills and qualifications that employers are seeking, while employers question whether it makes sense for them to invest more in building strong relationships with post-secondary institutions. At the same time, governments are left to wonder whether companies are investing sufficiently in employee training. This report, based on a survey of 90 leading Canadian employers, examines recent and future hiring trends, demographic changes, the job market for young Canadians and the skills and attributes that large Canadian firms are looking for when they recruit employees. It is a follow-up to a report on Skills Shortages in Canada, conducted by the Business Council of Canada (formerly the Canadian Council of Chief Executives) throughout the fall of 2013 and released in two parts during the first quarter of 2014. Overall, the survey results indicate that: 1. Large companies are increasingly looking to recruit or develop employees with strong soft skills (also known as non-cognitive skills). These skills are especially important when identifying and developing future leaders; 2. Large companies generally report that new post-secondary graduates are adequately prepared to enter the workforce, but that expectations for graduates are changing rapidly; 3. Collaboration between post-secondary institutions and the private sector is reasonably healthy, although more is needed; 4. Large companies are investing more in workforce learning and development. In many cases this includes the use of new training methods; and 5. Most respondents believe their companies are well-prepared to handle anticipated demographic shifts, in particular the coming wave of retirements among baby boomers.