The blank page can be an incredibly daunting thing. If all you do is stare at it, nothing will happen. You could throw a blank canvas in front of someone and it doesn’t change the result. Starting from scratch and building anything new takes creativity. I am not attempting to be overly profound. My point is that creating anything from the ground up, when you have multiple options from which to choose, makes even the most talented people nervous. Talent shortages in Alberta go far beyond ticketed trades or university degrees. It costs a company thousands of dollars to train a new hire on all its internal systems. It takes on-the-job training by experts to ensure that a new employee is productive and effective in his/her work. It doesn’t matter if a person comes into our company with a valid ticket for their trade or a degree from university. We have to teach them how to weld, pipe fit, or draft in the real world. A textbook is a great start, but it is only the start.
This may seem like a bit of a laundry list, but in my opinion, we are lacking people with creativity, critical thinking abilities, problem solving, and emotional intelligence as well as basic on-the-job skills. I think what gets misunderstood is what industry is truly lacking. If you just dug beneath the surface, you would see that the numbers of individuals with the required credentials is adequate. What we are truly lacking is people who have the ability to think, troubleshoot, and perform within a group or a team. We lack managers who have these exact same skills, but our managers also lack the ability to self-assess and plan ahead.
I wonder how many companies out there provide training beyond the standard safety orientation. Plains Fabrication does go deeper than your average company as we have a training course in communication, emotional intelligence, and Lean manufacturing fundamentals. We also send people for leadership training and we have a new employee mentoring program. Companies do not get paid to train their employees. They do receive a return on their investment if the employees stay, but it is a slow return. For every hour one of my highly skilled trades has to mentor a new employee, I lose two hours of productivity. For each day we put someone through training, I lose at least a day of productivity. It is a cost that can be in the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars per employee hired. I hired 47 people in the past three months. Even if the cost of hiring was exactly $1,000 per person, that would be $47,000 in training costs, but I can assure you it is much more than $1,000 per person.
The Government of Canada is introducing a program called the Canada Job Grant. This was intended to be a step in the right direction. It was supposed to give back to companies like ours that train our people. Instead, it will only apply if we send people to a university. These employees already have that training (and by the way, Plains paysÂ for 100% of all company related training already). The government once again fails to recognize that 80% of what a person learns about their chosen profession is done on the job. In my case, it was 100%. I had people willing to train me and I jumped at the chance to learn. If this grant had been in existence, I would say they deserved somethingÂ for the time they spent teaching me everything I know about how to run a business. Entrepreneurs are generally great people who will hire and train as their companies grow. I think those companies that do invest in their people should get something for it at the end of the day. University isnâ€™t free – you pay for what you learn. On the job, you are paid to learn. If we as companies are doing 80% of the training, then should we not be more involved in directing educational funds? I think university and trade schools play an integral part, but why do we need to boost their coffers even more? This was supposed to be about on-the-job training. It was supposed to make it more appealing for companies to offer training. Plains Fabrication is in the minority when it comes to the types of training we offer our employees.
My point is that we have the opportunity to build something that will benefit everyone, and the Canada Job Grant could be one great step forward. The government is afraid that companies will abuse the system. Fear is the wrong approach to being successful. Engage the business people who want to have input. Penalize anyone who even remotely abuses the system, but stop penalizing companies like ours that attempt to do everything we can to engage and train our employees.
This is one more example of the government trying to show the public that they are doing something rather than it being about building a great policy that will benefit all Canadians. At least the Temporary Foreign Workers program was implemented before they tore it all down. This time it looks like the government is going to run away from doing anything of real consequence before they have even tried.
I believe it is proof once again that the government is more interested in playing politics when they could be doing something of significance.
Originally Â published in theÂ