Survey finds 71% of employers agree they have a responsibility to provide career management programs but only 29% offer them

Toronto, Jan. 21, 2014 – A shortage of skilled workers is the single biggest issue facing Canadian executives in 2014 but employers are split on how to address the skills gap, according to a new survey released today by the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC). Environics Research Group conducted the telephone
survey of 500 Canadian business leaders about the skills shortage and skills gaps, employee training and recruiting workers, as well as career management practices.
Employers from across the country face a number of challenges this year, but the most commonly noted is a shortage of skilled workers, along with the general state of the economy. The shortage of skilled workers is a challenge for seven in 10 (68%) businesses across the country right now.

“Clearly, Canadian business leaders are very concerned about their need for skilled people and the talent disconnect that is happening,” said Mark Venning, chair of the CERIC board of directors. “They need additional tools and expertise when it comes to recruiting new employees and helping all their employees achieve their career goals.”

The survey found that a majority of executives (72%) perceive a gap between the skills they are looking for, and what most jobseekers have. More than one in three businesses (36%) feel that gap has grown. Executives in organizations with over 500 employees are the most likely (51%) to say that the skills gap has increased in recent years.

Among Canadian businesses, there is an even split between those who feel the best way to close the gap is for employers to provide more training (43%), and those who say it is prospective employees who should better prepare themselves for the labour market (43%).

Finding skilled employees not easy

According to the CERIC survey, a total of 70% of Canadian executives say finding a skilled employee is not an easy task, with one quarter describing it as very difficult. For businesses located outside of Ontario, that challenge is even greater and, as a result, many rely on referrals from current employees and internal promotions to fill positions.

Nearly two-thirds of executives say they would hire an employee with the right soft skills and provide training on the more technical aspects of the job. Yet two out of three businesses (66%) have difficulty finding candidates with the soft skills they’re looking for – a positive attitude, good communication ability and a strong work ethic.

Although willingness to provide training is high, a majority of employers (64%) also express concern about losing employees after investing in training.

When it comes to recruiting, just half of Canadian executives (52%) say that a potential employee’s online footprint is important to them, with only one in 10 (11%) saying it is very important. Small businesses (of less than 10 employees) are the least likely to consider a potential employee’s online profile – just over one quarter (26%) say it is not at all important. Seventy-six per cent of executives said resumes are still important, while an additional 10% see resumes as having become more important.

Who is left out of Canada’s workplace?

To consider the issue of high youth unemployment in Canada, executives were provided a series of possible reasons, and asked to pick which they feel is the greatest. The most commonly selected reasons are that young people are too demanding in the jobs that they want (19%) and that they lack real-world experience (18%).

What do Canadian businesses do to attract young workers? Half of all Canadian executives said that they post their job openings to online job sites (55%) or recruit through social media (49%). Campus recruitment (34%), job fairs (31%) and paid internships (29%) are used by three in 10 businesses, while fewer recruit through youth service agencies. Of note, nearly a quarter of businesses (24%) reported offering unpaid internships.

Canadian executives were also asked about their organizations’ efforts to recruit candidates from under-represented groups, such as visible minorities, aboriginal people, people with disabilities and new Canadians; half (50%) say that this is not something in which they invest a great deal of time or effort.

Career planning and coaching

Seven in 10 executives (71%) agree that employers have a responsibility to provide career management programs for their staff.  However, only three in 10 (29%) say such programs are currently being offered by their organization with larger organizations being more likely to offer them. A lack of time is the greatest challenge and for small organizations the main reason is a lack of expertise. The most frequently offered programs include tailored coaching (29%) and career planning (25%).

A strong majority of executives (88%) agree that it is at least somewhat important that employees have the opportunity to reach their own career goals with 44% of businesses stating it is very important.

About the survey

The survey was conducted October 25 to November 11, 2013. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points (at the 95% confidence level). The sample included representation across regions, urban vs. rural, number of employees and by industry.

The survey was co-sponsored by TD Bank Group. The complete report, Career Development in the Canadian Workplace: National Business Survey, is available online at


The Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC) is a charitable organization that advances education and research in career counselling and career development. We support the creation of career counselling-related research and professional development for a cross-sectoral community through funding project partnerships and our strategic programs: Cannexus, ContactPoint / OrientAction and The Canadian Journal of Career Development.

For further information:

Sharon Ferriss
Director, Marketing, Web & New Media, CERIC