Job Quality Indicators » Training and Skill Development

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Opportunities for Skill Development

Updated June 2007

There is wide agreement today that the skills and knowledge of our workforce are the key to our future prosperity. An innovative economy and rising standard of living depend on how effectively we develop and use each and every worker’s talents.

 

Opportunities For Skill Development: Consistent Across Most Groups

Source: Rethinking Work (2004) by Ekos Research Associates & The Graham Lowe Group.
 

So what do Canadian workers have to say about their opportunity for skills development? The results are generally positive. When asked to what extent their jobs help them develop their skills and abilities, Over 60 percent of workers said their job does let them develop their skills and abilities to a large extent. Another 30 percent of workers say that their jobs let them develop their skills and abilities to some extent. A small minority of workers (5 percent) says their jobs do not at all allow them to develop their skills or abilities.

As we will document in future updated indicators on this Web site, firms that provide greater opportunities for ‘people development’ (what governments and employers often refer to as ‘human resource development’) reap the benefits of this through improved job satisfaction, which, in turn, leads to lower absenteeism and turnover. In short, skill development is a ‘win-win’ investment that benefits both employers and workers.

Perceived opportunities to develop one’s skills are not evenly distributed across the workforce. For example, young workers (those 25 and under) are more likely than other workers to say their jobs do not provide opportunities for skill development. Almost 10 percent of them say they do “not at all” agree with the statement that their job provides opportunities for skills development. This may reflect the predominance of young people (many of whom are still students) in sales, service, and other entry-level jobs that require only basic skills. Despite this, a majority of young workers (those 25 and under) report that they are able to develop their skills in their jobs to a large extent (65 percent).

Almost 70 percent of older workers (those aged 55 and over) say, to a large extent, that their jobs allow them to develop their skills and abilities. These numbers are very encouraging as employers work to keep older employees in the workforce longer due to labour and skills shortages. If older workers perceive that they are still able to develop their skills, they are more likely to want to remain with their employer or in the workforce.

 

By Employment Type

Opportunities For Skill Development Highest
Among the Self-Employed and Lowest Among Part-time Workers

Source: Rethinking Work (2004) by Ekos Research Associates & The Graham Lowe Group.
 

Almost 80 percent of self-employed individuals say they develop their skills and abilities to a large extent, a figure much higher than the 62 percent for all workers shown in the previous graph. The greater control that self-employed individuals have over their work likely accounts for some of this difference. Research suggests that the self-employed are less likely than employees to participate in formal job-related training courses or programs, which are important sources of skill development. It is quite likely, then, that self-employed workers rely more on their co-workers or themselves to learn new skills, a process often referred to as ‘informal’ training.

Part-time and seasonal workers are more likely than others to say that do they not at all agree that their jobs provide them with opportunities to develop their skills and abilities.

 

By Region

Opportunities For Skill Development
Somewhat Lower in Ontario and B.C.

Source: Rethinking Work (2004) by Ekos Research Associates & The Graham Lowe Group.
 

It’s been noted elsewhere that the share of individuals who feel overqualified for their jobs is highest in Ontario and British Columbia (see Skill Use). Similarly, individuals in those provinces are less likely to say that their jobs provide opportunities to develop their skills and abilities to a large extent (60 percent and 58 percent, respectively). This may partly reflect the fact that the level of education in these provincial workforces is considerably higher than in other parts of Canada, and that skill requirements of many jobs have not risen fast enough to make use of this.

Workers in Quebec and Atlantic Canada stand out for being more likely to say they develop their skills and abilities to a large extent, both at about 65 percent. In Quebec, 37 percent of workers say they develop their skills and abilities “to a great extent”, the highest among all the regions. Such views may reflect provincial legislation that requires many firms to invest a small portion of their total payroll in staff training and development (see Workplace Training).

 

By Industry

Opportunities For Skill Development: Social Scientists, Educators and Government Employees Report Most Skill Development Opportunities

Source: Rethinking Work (2004) by Ekos Research Associates & The Graham Lowe Group.
 

Opportunities for skill development vary widely by industry. At the high end of the spectrum, workers in construction and social services (health, education, and welfare) are much more likely to say they develop their skills and abilities to a large extent (77 percent and 70 percent, respectively). Worse off in this regard are workers in manufacturing, with only 52 percent of workers saying they develop their skills and abilities to a large extent.

It is useful to bear in mind that this is only one indicator of a complex and dynamic process. Skill development happens in many ways – through informal workplace learning, a vast array of training and educational programs in and outside the workplace, as part of one’s work activities, and other ways as well.

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