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Labour market information : An essential part of Canada’ s skills agenda

This paper provides advice to the Business Council of Canada on ways to sustain and develop Canada’s labour market information, widely known as LMI. Reliable and useful jobs data is essential to delivering a well-functioning labour market and, more generally, a strong Canadian economy. Recent work by the Business Council and other groups has underlined the wide range of workplace skills required to achieve these goals. In particular, businesses are increasingly looking for workers with multi-faceted competencies—not just technical knowledge, but also so-called “soft skills” such as collaboration and teamwork, problem-solving, relationship building and an openness to change. At its best, labour market information provides clear signals that guide the various players towards the most appropriate choices. It helps identify the skills that business needs, and how they can be developed. LMI is critical in matching workers with jobs (and vice versa), and highlighting gaps between the skills that are available and those in need. The entire labour market reaps these benefits: 1. Students know what education and training to pursue and to what extent their educational credentials will be measured, accredited and transferable. 2. Educators know what programs best contribute to the economy. In that way, they can better understand what to teach, and how to ensure their graduates’ success in the job market. 3. Workers better know where the jobs are and what they require. 4. Immigrants know the opportunities that await them, and the skills they need. 5. Businesses know what skills are available in the workforce and what gaps need to be filled. Proper information helps inform employers and workers of the potential pay-offs of training. 6. Governments know which training programs are needed to fill skills gaps. Better program evaluations help policymakers allocate training resources to obtain the most “bang for the buck”. In this way, employers find workers’ skills more closely aligned to their needs, helping them fill job vacancies, bringing down unemployment, and boosting productivity and output. Canada has no shortage of labour market information. However, the data is fragmented, often hard to access and has many gaps, such as developments in the workplace, the balance of labour demand and supply in local markets, and the longer-term experience of college and university graduates in the labour market, to name just a few.