The story is the same no matter where you are considering locating your next project. The people you hire will make or break your success, so you need access to workers who are available, with the right skills and the right work ethic — at the right price. In these kinds of considerations, Canada’s labor force measures up well.
A great place to begin is how well-prepared the workforce is to meet the needs of employers. According to research shared by JPMorgan Chase, nearly two thirds of Canadian adults have earned a postsecondary degree. Workers and researchers with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and math are among the most highly sought, of course, and almost one in five Canadian students is pursuing a STEM education. At the doctorate level, STEM students make up more than half of the enrollment. Research from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development backs this up. Canada ranks second in the percentage of 25-to-34-year-olds with tertiary education, and also second in similarly educated 55-to-64-year-olds. The United States is a bit behind Canada in attainment among the older group, but far behind on the measure of younger workers’ educational level. The OECD report notes, “As globalization and technology continue to reshape the needs of labor markets worldwide, the demand for individuals with a broader knowledge base and more specialized skills continues to rise.”
A specialized people skill that is sometimes underrated and definitely challenging to measure is collaboration in problem-solving. What employer wouldn’t want a workforce full of people who solve problems well together? It turns out that Canada is a good place to find that kind of skill, too, according to the OECD. The organization’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) measures and compares various capabilities of those studying to enter the workforce. One of its more unusual assessments looked into how well students can navigate group dynamics, resolve disagreements, and overcome obstacles as a group. Canada ranked fifth on this measure — well ahead of the United States.
Canada does well on the PISA rankings in general, one of a select few countries to land in the top 10 in math, science, and reading assessments. The results are impressive when Canada’s provinces are considered individually, too. For example, in the science rankings, if the three Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Quebec were separate countries, they would make up three of the world’s top five jurisdictions.
Government policies are particularly designed to roll out the red carpet for foreign-born individuals who bring important job skills, educational achievements, and language proficiency.
It takes a strong education system to be such an achiever. As a general rule, Canada’s educators place a high priority on literacy. There have been concerted and successful efforts to ensure equity in educational quality for all students. As a result, there’s not a lot of achievement difference between Canadian students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged compared with those who have fewer socioeconomic challenges.
Quality is strong beyond the postsecondary level, too. Three universities in Canada are among the world’s top 50 global universities, according to USNews & World Report. University of Toronto is 20th on the list, University of British Columbia in Vancouver places 20th, and McGill University in Montreal is 49th. Canadian universities, in fact, are drawing increasing enrollment interest among non-Canadian, international students, according to USNews.
Welcoming Immigration Policies
Quality education is just part of the story, though. Canada expands its talent pool through welcoming immigration policies. In fact, about a fifth of the Canadian population was born elsewhere and immigrated to Canada, and the rate is even higher in such population areas as Toronto, where as much as half the population started out life in a different country.
Canadians, as a general rule, see immigration as a key to the nation’s economic success. Government policies are particularly designed to roll out the red carpet for foreign-born individuals who bring important job skills, educational achievements, and language proficiency.
The Canadian federal government works hand-in-hand with provincial leadership to help companies recruit and retain the kinds of skilled international talent they need to succeed. Canada’s Global Skills Strategy is a fast-track program aimed at making this happen. In a variety of situations, the program promises two-week processing of work permit applications. The strategy also exempts a variety of highly skilled workers and researchers from work permits if they’re needed for relatively short-term work in Canada. Other government programs ensure that immigration goes smoothly, and that new residents transition well to their life in Canada.
The Canadian economy is diverse, which results in a workforce with skills in a lot of different areas.
The result of this welcoming attitude is an incredibly diverse society. Global companies serving the world from Canada gain from the country’s diversity in terms of language and ethnicity. Take British Columbia as an example of multilingual possibilities. More than 400,000 of its workers speak one of the Chinese dialects as their first language, and 139,000 list Punjabi as their first language. In the country as a whole, most people speak English and/or French, of course, but some 1.2 million speak Mandarin or Cantonese.
A Diversity of Skills & Low Costs
The Canadian economy is diverse, which results in a workforce with skills in a lot of different areas. Statistics Canada reports that about 80 percent of the workforce can be found in services-producing sectors. Of the 13 million Canadians whose work falls in this category, nearly a million provide technical, scientific, or professional services. Outside the services-producing realm, the biggest sector by far is manufacturing.
The makeup varies from one province to another, but services typically are strong across the nation. British Columbia, for example, reports that more than a quarter of its workforce is in a knowledge-based industry, more than any other individual sector. Services-producing sectors employ the majority in this province, as is also the case in Alberta, though resource-related jobs add up to a significant number as well.
And then there’s the issue of labor expense. Workforce-related costs tend to be the biggest part of an operational budget, but it’s not just wages. Benefits add a non-insignificant sum, especially healthcare benefits. That’s one area where Canada has a clear advantage over its neighbor to the south. Because universal healthcare is in place, the typical company’s employer health costs are much less. In Ontario, for example, they average about a third of the cost in the United States.
One more thing about the Canadian labor force that’s well-known and much appreciated by employers: the culture that workers create and maintain. Corporate and government policies help ensure a healthy work-life balance, and workers respond with a strong work ethic and a courteous, cooperative, and efficient approach to the job they do. It’s a characteristic that may be hard to quantify, but the aim of mutual success is a real thing in Canadian workplaces.