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A new approach toward a highly-skilled Canadian workforce.

The two main pieces of the process -- labor and business -- have combined efforts to form an effective partnership: the Canadian Labour Force Development Board

Over the past few years, there has been increased recognition that partnerships can often succeed where individual efforts have been left struggling.

Canada needs a more highly skilled labor force, both as a means of increasing the economic opportunities of individual Canadians and to enhance the Canadian economy. A key element in achieving this goal is training in all its aspects - from programs to assist in the transition from school and home to the workplace to ongoing upgrading and retraining efforts.

These two elements -- partnerships and the need for training -- have come together to form the Canadian Labour Force Development Board (CLFDB), made up of an active partnership of the private sector groups involved in labor market development -- business, labor, education/training providers and representatives of aboriginal people, people with disabilities, visible minorities and women.

The CLFDB mandate is a clear and succinct one, to:

* serve as an advocate for more relevant, higher quality and accessible training

* advise the Government of Canada on all aspects of training and related employment and adjustment programs and policies;

* make firm recommendations on a number of training issues, including the allocation of funds for training, particularly the Expenditure Plan for the Developmental Uses of Unemployment Insurance; client and program priorities for training funds; occupational and training standards; methods of reducing barriers to access training; advocacy for increased investment in training.

The CLFDB is a not-for-profit national organization. Its agenda and work program are set independently by the members of the Board.

The issues of main priority of the Board fall under two principal subject areas: human resources planning, which concentrates on the employed workforce and workplace training, including apprenticeship; and training and labor adjustment, which focuses on the unemployed, those not in the labor force, and training for transition into the workplace. The Board itself provides overall policy direction.

The CLFDB is proud of both its achievements and, especially, the commitment of the partners since its start-up two-and-a-half years ago.

To be relevant in the area of economic and human resource development, labor market partners at the national, provincial/territorial and local levels must all be involved. It is for this reason that a priority for the CLFDB is the establishment of provincial/territorial and local boards. The CLFDB is satisfied with the progress already made; there is a great deal of activity in all provinces/territories and a number of provincial boards are already up and running.

National forum was a first

The First Labor Market Partners' Forum, held in Ottawa in April, was thus a very important 'first': never before had representatives of labor market partners from across the country been brought together in one place at one time to put consensus decision-making into action. Forum participants were those people active in establishing provincial/territorial and local labor force development boards across the country.

The CLFDB and its counterparts at the provincial/territorial and local levels are not intended to duplicate the work of any existing organizations. Rather, they will provide a new source of policy advice and direction on a wide range of training and training-related issues and a new, more effective approach to meeting the needs of employers and workers.

In the short while it has been established, the CLFDB has had a significant effect as an advocate for more relevant, better quality, accessible training.

The federal government has accepted in toto CLFDB recommendations for $2.2 billion to be allocated to the 1993 budget for the Developmental Uses of UI. The major portion of the funds will go for training -- income support and training course costs. Given the current economic restructuring and the state of the Canadian labor market, the Board identified displaced, experienced workers as priority clients for training support.

The Board was also able to arrive at a consensus decision to offer, through the Developmental Uses budget, support that is more comprehensive, that emphasizes longer-term training and hopefully leads to stable employment. Given financial limitations, the Board is aware that this means fewer individuals would receive training support. However, in the Board's considered view, it is essential to support longer training periods and to ensure sequential training -- from pre-vocational training to employment-related training and skills upgrading -- to ensure that Canadians are prepared to participate fully in the labor force.

The CLFDB firmly believes that training is a continuum and learning a life-long endeavor. Its objective is to foster a life-long learning and training culture for Canadians.

Of great importance is the necessity to improve and expand the apprenticeship system across the country -- the focus of the Board's national apprenticeship committee. The CLFDB is also working actively with Employment and Immigration Canada to expand the national sectoral approach to training, since it believes that industry sectors should count among the players providing effective ways to focus on training needs.

The Board believes that a system of national occupational standards in Canada will provide a coherent and integrated framework for Canada's retraining efforts. Properly instituted, a system of national occupational standards will enhance opportunities for Canadians and the performance of the Canadian economy. The standards-setting process must be driven by the private sector.

With its discussion document Occupational standards in Canada - issues and opportunities (January 1993), the Canadian Labour Force Development Board is presently undertaking a Canada-wide dialogue with all potential stakeholders, both private sector and governments, on the need for, and benefits of, national occupational standards for Canada. (Copies of the issues document are available from the Board.)

As a next step in the process, the CLFDB will be preparing, over the summer, a position paper to incorporate the feedback received from the consultation process and present CLFDB recommendations on how to proceed.

Training standards being developed

Parallel to its work on a system of national occupational standards, the Board is also working in the area of training standards. Training standards will ensure that individuals receive recognized quality instruction and evaluation of their skills. A paper on this issue is also being prepared.

Another important area of research for the Board will be the next edition of the National Training Survey, which will analyze the 1993 data on training activity in the private sector.

Proud as the CLFDB is of its accomplishments since start-up, it is also aware of the many tasks that lie ahead.

The CLFDB operates within the broad parameters and constraints of the Canadian political and economic system. In this regard, there are a number of important immediate and ongoing considerations which will have an effect on the way the Board addresses its immediate priorities. A major consideration is the federal government's policy of fiscal restraint, which will have a direct effect on both the amount of money available from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the purchase of training and the range options available for programming.

Another important consideration is the changing demographics of the Canadian workforce, particularly the increasing participation of women in the paid labor force and the aging of the working population, which means that new approaches to skill acquisition and evaluation may be required.

Whatever the tasks and challenges of the future, the success of the CLFDB's work will continue to depend on the strength of its partnerships.

One of the most important principles of the Board is that members are nominated by each constituency. The co-chairs, in turn, have been selected by their constituents: J. Laurent Thibault, former president of the Canadian Manufacturers' Association as Business Co-chair, and E. Gerard Docquier, former Canadian national director of the United Steelworkers of Canada, as Labor Co-chair.

Reference groups, originally established to put in place a process for nominating constituent representatives to the Board, have evolved into a source of advice to Board members and a vehicle through which the Board can engage many more people in its work. It is this kind of involvement and outreach which ensures that the Board can bring forward policy advice and recommendations based on the real needs of the players involved. This is the reality of partnership in action.

Space is available for only a brief overview of the work of the CLFDB. Should you wish further information, please contact the CLFDB, at 23-66 Slater Street, Ottawa, ON K1P 5H1; Tel: 613-230-6264; Fax: 613-230-7681.

Michelle Albagli is chief, communications, Canadian Labour Force Development Board, Ottawa, ON.
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Author:Albagli, Michelle
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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