Canadian employers face significant challenges in recruiting and retaining the right talent, according to a panel of experts at a recent Toronto Region Board of Trade luncheon.

One issue is the “mismatch between supply and demand,” explained Dr. Robert Luke, vice-president, research and innovation, with George Brown College. He cited a recent Maclean’s statistic: over the last 11 years, Canada has produced 1.1 million humanities and social sciences graduates but only 41,000 plumbers and electricians. “We need to do a better job at matching the credential needed with what the labour market needs,” he said, adding that this will require greater co-ordination between industry and academia.

In a similar vein, Greg Rooney, senior vice-president, HR, with Aecon Group Inc., described the challenges of recruiting for the construction company. Due to the complexity of the business and its projects, “we’ve changed the mindset of our HR teams to be much more global,” he said. “You just can’t find project managers who are capable of executing an $8-million project. There’s just not that many of them in Canada.”

To ensure that it has the right resources in place, Aecon also focuses on developing its own talent internally. For example, Rooney explained, the company launched Aecon University a year and a half ago to leverage all training in the company through one platform and ensure consistency in skills.

But developing talent is a particular challenge in an environment where many companies are still trying to do more with less, noted Kathy Lockwood, HR leader of Aon Canada. She noted that, in many cases, companies simply aren’t filling vacated positions and are instead transferring the workload to others. When they do hire, “everyone’s looking for someone who can hit the ground running, and, unfortunately, ‘hit the ground running’ means that we’re not going to be training up,” she explained. “One of the things that organizations need to look at is how they’re going to grow their talent so that they are able to move individuals up through organizations.”

“We’re living in a world—particularly in this economic climate—of short-term gain for long-term pain,” agreed Neil Crawford, partner and leader of Aon Hewitt’s Best Employers in Canada study, noting that there are lost opportunities in hiring someone who is “ready now” instead of someone who can be developed into a role. He believes that training and development requires a continual investment in staff—even when times are tough.

“A strong commitment to learning and development through good times and bad is a critical element in sustaining the competitiveness of an organization’s key asset: its people,” he added. “Meaningful development of people can’t be turned on and off—it needs to be sustained on an ongoing basis to ensure a highly motivated and productive workforce.”

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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Ron & Nadine Wells:

The agricultural industry is reflective of these comments also. However, the focus within our breed association is and will remain, on young people who are bred, born and raised on the farm, who experience hard work and are rewarded, not always monetarily, with the satisfaction of giving their best and completing projects that they have started. Agriculture is at the base of all humanity, and we do stand tall for the agricultural orientated youth of our country. Let’s put some financial support behind those who are ready and willing to give of what they have learned in life’s lessons for the betterment of our Nation from every perspective, mentally, health, quality of life, and an appreciation for those who have passed on a great legacy.

Tuesday, October 15 at 1:44 pm | Reply

norman r.:

Has Canada Got Talent?
What an insulting way to put things. Has Canada got any corporations willing to train entry-level personnel is more like the real problem. In addition, they don’t properly train seasoned staff for managerial positions that may open in the future. They’re too stingy with their investments into personnel. Only a very very small group of people see investments in their career path. I know of many young people who have great talent but they need formalized training to fill those open spots. The corporations are too lazy or cheap so instead they press governments to open our borders to unwanted immigrants, that bankrupt other countries and create massive cultural divides in this country. We need to start major investments in born and bred Canadians, not outsiders, who leech onto our social support systems and bleed us to death.

Tuesday, October 15 at 7:08 pm | Reply


There is a reason why there is a shortage of talent in Canada. Due to the lack of risk tolerance, Canadian firms are unwilling to spend the funds necessary to procure skilled individuals to fulfill its business obligations. Rather, they hide behind protectionist policies to retain their diminishing client base. It’s evident from what you can see in lack of competition in the marketplace and higher costs for consumer goods (approx. 30-37% higher vs. the U.S.). By not hiring when a headcount becomes free and shifting the responsibility to existing staff (doing “more with less”), they further degrade their level of service.

I agree with the article in that there is a impetus for Canadian firms to invest more in training and development. Additionally, I think they should reexamine their model for employee retention to truly strengthen their profits, rather than make cost cuts above the line that reduces their revenue stream as well.

Wednesday, October 16 at 10:32 am | Reply

Denise Baril:

I see the challenge as a human capital crisis. Many companies exist with major gaps and these gaps are the reason why people leave their organization. Understanding what you need and the providing the resources to support human capital is everything. Treating people well matters.

Wednesday, October 16 at 12:29 pm | Reply

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