Authors: Janet Lane and Jeff Griffiths

Executive Summary

There are 400,000 Canadian jobs looking for people, and more than 1.32 million Canadians looking
for jobs. These unfilled jobs mean unnecessary unemployment, costs to individuals and communities, and lost productivity and profit for employers. One study estimated that skills gaps and mismatches in Ontario alone cost that economy $24.3 billion a year.

Four reasons for this mismatch are identified:

01  Formal education and apprenticeships do not teach all, or even the right, skills and competencies to the right levels needed by employers.

02  Unrecognized skills: Many people have skills and competencies that their official credentials do not address. They also may not be able to articulate the skills that go beyond official credentials that they possess, or their value. Therefore, unsurprisingly, employers may not be aware of the varied and specific skills that people have.

03  Employers are not sure what skills and competencies they need, or are unable to articulate what they are.

04  Foreign credentials, which are otherwise adequate in terms of skills and competencies, are not recognized.

One ambitious solution – a competency-based, pan-Canadian qualifications framework – would help to eliminate the mismatch problem by addressing all of these issues.

Competencies are things people can actually do, and that an individual must demonstrate to be effective in a job, role, function, task or duty.

More than 140 countries have already embraced a system of competency frameworks. Canada should too. A competency framework goes beyond our official credentialing system, which is insufficient. It is an instrument for the development, classification and recognition of skills, knowledge and competencies across a hierarchy of defined levels, with links to recognized qualifications and associated occupations. Frameworks enable the assembly of competencies to define job requirements, and the development of associated qualifications.

In developing its own frameworks, Canada would benefit from the experience of other countries that are further ahead in implementing and refining these frameworks. For example, the European Qualifications Framework allows workers across Europe to determine what competencies they may need to develop to be eligible to work in other European countries. This shows that a single pan-Canadian framework would work for all 13 jurisdictions in the country.

This paper discusses the components of competency frameworks, including tasks (the things that people do in their jobs), skills and knowledge required to accomplish each task, the levels of competency required by each task, and how competency is assessed. It suggests a made-in-Canada governance model based on the Standards Council of Canada, a Crown agency.

We recommend that a steering committee of interested stakeholders be formed to decide in which sector to begin building Canada’s competency frameworks – we suggest manufacturing. From there, a working group can determine the number of levels to be included and the common vocabulary and structure to be used in the framework. This work will be made much easier by using the work of earlier adopters in other countries, which have already identified competencies and the criteria for their assessment.

If Canada wants:

>Fewer unfilled jobs;

>Fewer unemployed Canadians;

>Less time between employment transitions for individuals;

>Faster and less expensive recruitment by firms; and

>Better hires – lower turnover, higher productivity, greater safety,

then the sooner we get started building our own competency-based qualifications framework, the better.