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Experts at work on Canadian skills issues

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WMC by Richard Lipman
Richard Lipman is president of the Wood Manufacturing Council. For more info email
WMC, along with organisations in our network, is pleased to have the opportunity to work with a prominent organization in the skills development field that brings together a wide variety of experts, organisations and research. The Future Skills Centre (FSC) is dedicated to helping Canadians gain the skills they need to thrive in a changing labour market. FSC recognizes that Canada’s economy is evolving rapidly as a result of technological, demographic, environmental and geopolitical change. That change inevitably alters the nature of work, creating both new opportunities but also new threats. FSC is a group that was conceived to address those opportunities 
and threats, by fostering a 
more responsive skills development landscape.  
FSC is looking ahead, gaining and sharing insights into the labour market of today and the future. Together with its partners, they inform and support local approaches to skills development and employment training to help Canadians transition in a changing economy. FSC is a pan-Canadian initiative, connecting ideas and innovations generated across the country so that employees and employers can succeed in the labour market and to ensure that local, regional and national economies thrive. They aim to help Canadians benefit from effective skills development and seek to ensure an inclusive approach to supporting underserved groups such as women, youth, Indigenous peoples, newcomers, racialized peoples, LGBTQ2S+ peoples, persons with disabilities, veterans and Canadians living in rural, remote and northern communities.  
FSC’s mission is to focus on strengthening Canada’s skills development environment so that Canadians can look to a future of meaningful and relevant lifelong learning opportunities. Their vision is that Canada is a resilient learning nation, backed by an agile and responsive 
skills ecosystem that equips everyone with the skills they 
need to thrive in a rapidly changing economy and share in Canada’s prosperity. 

Included in FSC’s strategic priorities are:
Easy to access, practical labour market and 
skills information
They work with labour market information experts and partners to provide accurate, practical and timely data, tools and resources that can help Canadians understand changing skills needs and shape evidence-based responses.

Responsive career 
FSC enables the testing, prototyping and evaluation of new approaches that will provide forward-looking, customized, high-quality, accessible career and training advice, alongside education and skills training.

Agile labour 
market responses
FSC collaborates with sectors and industries to test, prototype and evaluate new approaches for proactively anticipating labour market change and equipping workers with necessary skills.
“What works” replication
They build networks that host ongoing learning, support service providers and build their capacity to adopt what works and inform policies and funding that enable system-wide scaling of best practices in skills training.
The Future Skills Centre was founded by a consortium of partners, including The Conference Board of Canada, Blueprint and Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University). They work with a number of leading organisations from across the country in delivering creative solutions to Canada’s skills development ecosystem and FSC is funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Program.  
Their strategic plan is geared to addressing the challenges and opportunities for skills development both here and now as well as into the future. Sharpening Canadians’ understanding of key drivers for skills development innovation will be critical, especially as Canada enters a period of recovery following the deep economic impacts of the 
COVID -19 pandemic. For many key drivers behind a skills agenda, the “future is now,” when it comes to adapting and leveraging the growing influence of new technologies in the world of work; addressing systemic barriers facing underserved populations, mitigating unequal access to training opportunities based on income, geography and job type; and engaging more employers as core partners in training solutions.

Key trends impacting 
Canada’s Skills Development situation include:
the magnification of existing inequities within the labour market;
unequal access to training opportunities based on income, geography and background;
labour market change driven by technological developments;
uneven access to workplace-based skills training;
increasing reliance on immigrants and older workers to fill labour market gaps.
FSC believes that Canada is stronger when everyone has the opportunity to contribute to and benefit from our shared prosperity. They also recognize that people in Canada are facing disruption like never before and there is a widening skills and labour gap. To help find solutions, their research draws from their partnerships across Canada with policymakers, employers and labour, skills development practitioners and experts, educators and researchers. They seek to identify, understand and synthesize the best research and innovation insights from Canada and internationally to help those in the skills field 
to better address knowledge gaps, learn about leading practices and gain capacity to address today’s challenges. Their work aims 
to go further still, mobilizing the knowledge needed to respond to the skills demands of the future.  
FSC has a number of areas they focus on. Core skills, such as basic literacy, numeracy, and socioemotional skills are important across all economic sectors and occupations. Figuring out who and how to address 
skills gaps is key to building 
an inclusive workforce with upward mobility.

Digital skills and technology
Technology is reshaping work and how the skills ecosystem delivers skills training. Understanding technologies and learning digital skills is key to achieving inclusive growth, quality employment and shared prosperity.
Employer-led solutions Skills and labour shortages are negatively impacting our economy and our society. Employers and especially small business owners lack the labour market information, funding and capacity and critical partnerships to develop solutions. Quality of work encompasses many factors that can impact the overall well-being of employees.  
It is an important driver of labour force participation, worker motivation and engagement, productivity and retention. Equity in the labour market - many equity seeking groups in Canada continue to face barriers to employment and career progression. Building 
an inclusive workforce requires addressing 
systemic discrimination to ensure all workers and employers thrive.

career pathways
With the pace of change in today’s labour market, many Canadian adults will need to shift careers, retrain or upskill. Career guidance during this transition can be crucial to their success.

Innovation and scaling 
Future focussed innovation in skills development and scaling of approaches that work is an essential component of navigating our changing labour market. Identifying and breaking down barriers to innovation will help build a cycle of continuous improvement.

Skills for a 
net-zero economy
As Canada advances its net-zero targets, we need a skills and training agenda to support both a net-positive job growth in the economy and transition at risk workers in sectors that will decline.
In my next column I will outline the project WMC is undertaking that is supported by the FSC and how we can benefit from that support and their extensive expertise and how we can contribute to the interesting and valuable work that they are doing.

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