Analytics could help tackle Canada’s labour shortage

Help your current workforce reach its true potential

EDMONTON, AB, Apr. 3, 2012, Troy Media/ – It’s no surprise to anyone that Canada is suffering from a shortage in skilled labour. But it may surprise you to learn that analytic software and programs could be a key component to overcoming it.

James Freeman, Chief Marketing Officer for Calgary-based Zedi Inc., a premier provider of analytics and data services, applications and technology for the oil and gas industry, sums up how analytics could play an integral role in the future of labour shortages in Alberta and Canada as a whole in two words: Increased efficiency.

Realizing potential

“Since 2008, the production operations side of the upstream oil and gas industry has lost a lot of experienced people. Through Analytics, we can help producers realize potential and become more efficient with the less-skilled labour they have, particularly where gas prices are very tight” he said.

Essentially, analytics programs analyze data captured from the producing assets in the field, and trigger alarms or flag trends of interest that may deviate from normal operating conditions. Based on these flags, companies can then focus productive effort to minimize downtime and cost, and maximize labour efficiency.

Unfortunately, human resources (HR) and production management in Canadian companies are lagging behind when it comes to implementing core analytics programs into employee performance. In fact, in 2006, an Accenture High-Performance Workforce Study reported that nearly 40 per cent of companies surveyed have no formal measures for determining HR impact on workforce performance, while another 39 per cent have such measures but only for some HR initiatives.

But the study found that 78 per cent of companies that are leaders on human performance criteria are able to demonstrate, with quantitative measures, the impact of the performance of the top three workforces on the organization’s overall financial performance. Similarly, 35 per cent of the leading businesses have formal, business-focused metrics – analytics – to gauge the impact of all of their HR activities on workforce performance.

According to these studies, successful companies are more likely to use analytics to link HR-related initiatives to business performance. The ability to develop business management plans from this data, to ensure that the workforce is working at its fullest potential, can help make up a portion of the labour shortages. Just as the development of manufacturing machinery reduced the labor force needed to make certain products, analytics application can reduce the required labor force by improving efficiency in almost any industry.

Coordination needed to solve labour shortages

Bringing new workers to the skilled labour force is important, of course, but focusing on using the current workforce to its fullest potential may be a better way to dramatically ease the burden of the labour shortages that are plaguing Canadian industries. If all of the reasonable methods of dealing with this problem are coordinated together – greater efficiency through analytics, expansions of skilled labour programs, and occasional temporary international hiring – Canada may overcome this impending economic obstacle, and forge on into an ever-more-prosperous future.

Learn more about the crucial role that analytics is playing in Alberta’s infrastructure and ever-evolving industries. James Freeman and other leading professionals will share their insights about the future of analytics this spring at Analytics, Big Data and the Cloud – Canada’s largest analytics conference being held April 23 to 25 at Edmonton’s Fantasyland Conference Centre.

What is the extent of the problem?

A C-Suite survey of Canadian corporate executives reported that, despite the high level of unemployment in Canada, companies just can’t get all the people they need to fill the skilled positions that are available. Two-thirds of executives said they are having difficulty finding qualified employees, and one-third said the labour shortage is so severe that it is stunting their companies’ growth.

Unfortunately, the problem is not one that is going to see an end any time soon. According to the Calgary Economic Development study, the demand for skilled labour in Alberta is expected to increase by more than 600,000 workers by 2021. If nothing is done to increase the number of skilled workers, who are ready and willing to occupy these job openings, there will be about 114,000 unfilled vacancies.

If steps are not taken to prepare for this severe shortage of trained workers, Canada could face a number of long-term economic problems that will affect thousands across the nation.

So what can be done about this impending economic threat? The Canadian government have explored a number of options. Many initiatives have focused on obtaining more foreign workers from the United States, Ireland, and U.K. to fill these vacancies.

Alberta Progressive Conservative Premier Alison Redford was in Chicago early this year to discuss the labour shortage and look into possibilities of bringing skilled workers to Alberta from the U.S.

“We’ve had discussions with a number of labour organizations in Chicago who’ve been doing work with decision-makers in the United States – and with the Canadian and U.S. ambassadors – to try to find avenues where we might be able to accelerate access of skilled labour into Alberta,” she said.

Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program was implemented to attempt to deal with the labour shortage head-on, allowing Canadian companies to hire foreign workers temporarily to fill these vacancies.

Though bringing in foreign workers on a temporary basis may remedy immediate labour needs, it does not address the labour shortage in the long term. Mike Rowe, an advocate for American investment in trades, believes the biggest problem stems from the lack of young people interested in skilled labour jobs, and the stigma associated with these trades:

“Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities as ‘vocational consolation prizes,’ best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree,” he said. “And still, we talk about millions of ‘shovel-ready’ jobs for a society that doesn’t encourage people to pick up a shovel.”

By focusing efforts on training programs in skilled trade through vocational education and apprenticeships, Canada could find more youth going down a skilled trade career path. If skilled trades could be legitimized and popularized in the minds of Canada’s young people, the influx of students pursuing skilled apprenticeships could help ease some of the stress on industries that rely heavily on these positions.

However, getting more students to pursue careers in skilled trade will not happen immediately. So what can companies do now to help address the labour shortages?

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