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The class of '93: keeping pace with today's workplace.

IT'S ROUGH ON THE JOB FRONT. SIMPLY GETTING a job, or keeping the one you have, has replaced the high-brow ideal of job satisfaction. Most job-smart Canadians realize schooling is no longer a task for the first quarter of your life. It has become a lifelong venture.

A worker using highly-developed manual skills to mill steel on one machine, may now have to plan and manage the flow of information to monitor four numerically controlled computerized machines.

Dave McCulloch, director of programs and services for Employment and Immigration Canada, says "We assist individuals threatened with layoff due to technological or market changes to upgrade their skills."

Costs encountered by an employer for this type of training is shared through Employment and Immigration's Workplace-Based Training Program. The intent is that employers will spend more on quality training and will recognize the need to constantly identify and adapt to meet shifting skill adjustment needs.

The commercial sector, government, vocational schools, universities and colleges, professional associations, volunteer organizations, and unions are all involved in some type of teaching or training. Still, even greater private sector involvement is wanted and needed to blueprint future skill development needs.

Says McCulloch, "Within the training sphere, joint responsibility falls on educational institutions to put the right training packages in place at the right time, the government to ensure programs are responsive to market needs and resources are designated, and employers to identify emerging and future skill demands."

He believes labor force development boards, to be in place soon, will enable different partners in the labor market -- business, labour, educational representatives, special interest groups, and government officials -- to work closely to make better decisions on Manitoba's training requirements.

Says McCulloch, "Manitoba's economy is diverse and has a number of small employers. Often, the focus of priorities is spread across the spectrum of employers to meet pockets of requirements as opposed to meeting the needs of one major identifiable occupational category or sector."

Training is probably most important in the face of economic decline and fast-paced technological change. Although some Manitoba companies have set the stage in promoting a constant training backdrop, many are not convinced it is an investment more valuable than, say, purchasing a new piece of equipment. Training is an easy cutback and you can count on equipment to stay put. Obviously, there is a lot more to modifying attitudes on training than dropping pamphlets from an airplane. Deeply ingrained cultural and societal attitudes play a key role.

McCulloch says, "A U.S. employer probably spends twice as much on training per employee as a Canadian employer. In Japan and Europe the spread is even larger. The workforce is as key a component to the success of an operation as anything else -- even more so. Well-trained workers lend a competitive edge."

Jerry Phomin, training consultant at Employment and Immigration Canada, also believes a training culture is important to ensure training budgets remain intact during a recession. "It has only been in the last five or six years that I have seen an increase in the number of Manitoba companies that think of training as a necessity and an investment," he says.

Regardless of what they are getting from employers, thousands of people are learning on their own. Although adult education has been increasing in popularity since the 1980s, certain trends are clear.

James Hartmann, current director of humanities and professional studies for the Continuing Education Division of the University of Manitoba, says interest in employment-related or career-change skills training is displacing a strong interest of a few years ago in humanities and liberal arts types of courses. So much so, that the division has recently withdrawn its personal development program which had offered an array of general arts subjects since 1935. However, interest in certificate and computer-related courses has soared.

Special needs groups such as natives, are also a part of the upgrading system. The Aboriginal Focus Certificate program addresses the needs of Manitoba's rising number of aboriginals in the workplace who want the knowledge and skills to perform their jobs more effectively. The First Nations and Tribal Councils are involved in the planning to meet the management and economic challenges of native-run communities.

Overall interest in management courses for all Manitobans has increased, according to Don Castleden, acting director of management studies for the Continuing Education Division. Castleden says there are 6,300 management certificate students extending their skills this year compared to 1,500 in 1985. He said the majority of people who are already working feel education will give them an added edge to ascend the corporate ladder.

While education seems the answer, there is some discontentment.

Management courses have been faulted for delays in bringing the most current material to the classroom.

Castleden says things are changing to redress this criticism. Joint planning with professional associations such as the Purchasing Management Association of Canada and the Canadian Institute of Management, make course content relevant. Instructors are recruited on the basis of work background, often directly from business.

In the long run, education of any kind is a valuable asset to today's workers. Most educators agree that if Canada is to remain competitive, the ongoing education of the workforce is privotal.

Catherine Senecal is a free-lance writer who lives in Winnipeg.
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Title Annotation:occupational training in Manitoba
Author:Senecal, Catherine M.
Publication:Manitoba Business
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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