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Canada’s skills gap continues to widen: study

A construction worker stands at the "ICE Condominiums" development site by Cadillac Fairview and Lanterra Developments in Toronto in this December 14, 2012 file photo. A 2013 survey of 2,000 people for Bank of Montreal found that 27 percent of first-time buyers in Canada expect their parents or other family members to help them purchase a house. That young adults need help with a first home should come as no surprise. Home prices in Canada hit record highs in late 2013, according to the Teranet-National Bank house price index. Industry data showed the average home price nearing C$400,000 ($358,800) in December. That's up 10 percent from a year earlier and 84 percent from December 2003, when the average price was C$211,768. To match Feature CANADA-ECONOMY/HOUSING REUTERS/Mark Blinch/Files (CANADA - Tags: BUSINESS CONSTRUCTION EMPLOYMENT REAL ESTATE)

We’ve heard the dire warnings a number of times now: There aren’t enough workers to fill jobs in the trades and other skilled professions – and the situation is getting worse.

While governments and companies claim to be working on programs to help solve the issue, a new study shows how public perception and education are working against those efforts.

More than two-thirds (76.6 per cent) of Canadians believe skilled trade work is considered “less respected and more old fashioned” as compared to white-collar jobs, according to an Ipsos-Reid survey conducted on behalf of job-placement firm Randstad Canada.

Nearly 80 per cent reported a lack of knowledge in skilled trades, which is why they never considered it as a career option.

"There is still a lot to be done to change perceived negative perceptions around skilled trades," states Randstad Canada president Tom Turpin. “The opportunities are there for young Canadians who are open to a different academic and career path.”

For many, the problem begins at home. Some parents turn up their noses at the prospect of their kids working as a plumber or carpenter, pushing them instead into careers in finance, teaching and the legal profession, where prospects for new graduates today are much more grim.

The study shows people in Ontario reported feeling the most pressure from their family to pursue these types of white-collar careers, or about 69 per cent of respondents. Quebecers were the least pressured, with about 52 per cent saying they felt white-collar work was the way to go.

The survey, which includes 2,076 working Canadians, shows one-third (37 per cent) of respondents would consider pursuing a career in skilled trades if there were good immediate and long term job prospects. About 35 per cent said the trades would need to present better long-term job security their current field.

The Randstad Canada Labour Trends Study 2014 says most Canadians believe the skills gap is a problem that needs to be addressed now, or about 91 per cent.

Still, respondents felt the responsibility lies with companies, governments and educators “and not with hard working Canadians.”

For instance, 40 per cent said companies need to invest more in skills training for their employees, another 38 per cent say schools need to better promote jobs and industries that will address the skills shortage. About a third said governments need to invest more in skills training for unemployed workers.

“Everyone, from organizations to schools, governments and placement agencies like us, need to do more to promote careers in skilled trades,” says Turpin.

He forgot to single out the role families must also play. The conversation starts at the dinner table.