The Great Reshuffle Canadian study reveals 81 per cent of Canadian executives having difficulty filling positions and confirm industry-wide skills gap

CERIC uncovers keen insights on top challenges Canadian businesses face during ever-evolving pandemic and how career development can increase Canada’s economic growth

TORONTO, ON (January 25, 2022) — There is a vaccine to champion recruitment and retention in the wake of “The Great Reshuffle.” It’s called career development.

A national survey [i] recently conducted by Environics for CERIC — a Canadian charitable organization that advances education and research in career counselling and career development — reveals that the majority of Canadian executives (81 per cent) are having difficulty finding people with the right skill set to fill positions and 78 per cent agree there is a skills gap in their respective industry.

“The ongoing pandemic and underlying economic uncertainty have Canadian executives experiencing significant difficulties and pain points including recruiting, hiring and retaining talent,” says André Raymond, CRHA, Laval University and Chair of the Board of Directors, CERIC. “Canadian businesses can play a significant role in addressing these shifting labour challenges by investing in career development that will address the skills shortage, contribute to economic growth and demonstrate their commitment to build a strong future skilled workforce.”

CERIC surveyed 500 Canadian executives in more than 11 industries including service, retail, hospitality, construction and manufacturing. The survey reveals keen insights into Canadian organizations’ current views on skills and talent gaps in the labour market; hiring underrepresented groups as part of equity, diversity and inclusion strategies; and the importance of investing in career development. The survey also provides comparability to CERIC’s 2013 survey to track differences within the past eight years.

Top Challenges for Canadian Businesses

Since 2013, executives are less concerned about the state of the economy, regulation & red tape and keeping up with technology. In this fluid pandemic landscape and underlying uncertainty, the challenge of finding young & skilled talent has increased in the past eight years. The top five challenges faced by employers are:

  1. A shortage of skilled workers (75 per cent vs 68 per cent in 2013)
  2. Finding young workers (66 per cent vs 51 per cent in 2013)
  3. Supply chain issues (70 per cent)
  4. General state of the economy (69 per cent vs 77 per cent in 2013)
  5. Regulation and red tape (52 per cent vs 63 per cent in 2013)

While employers in Ontario were the least likely to experience a shortage of skilled workers in 2013, they are now the most likely (81 per cent in 2021 vs 59 per cent in 2013), followed by executives in Quebec (76 per cent vs 77 per cent in 2013) and the Prairies (76 per cent vs 69 per cent in 2013).

Recruiting & Retaining Talent

Eighty-one per cent of Canadian executives are having difficulty finding people with the right skill set to fill positions in their companies — up from 70 per cent in 2013. Additional difficulties include:

  • Finding reliable candidates with the right work ethic (29 per cent)
  • Competitive job market in their respective industry (23 per cent)

While the importance of resumes has not deviated significantly since 2013, executives are finding a potential employee’s online footprint to be increasingly important (63 per cent vs 52 per cent in 2013).

Despite the growing importance of equity, diversity and inclusion, there has been a modest increase in the proportion of executives putting effort into customizing their recruitment approaches to attract and reach members of underrepresented groups (51 per cent vs 46 per cent in 2013).

“Compared to the pre-pandemic era, Canadian executives are now facing increased competition to recruit talent and one-third of executives find retaining employees to be more difficult compared to two years ago,” says Candy Ho, inaugural Assistant Professor, Integrative Career and Capstone Learning, University of the Fraser Valley and Vice-Chair, CERIC. “To compete, it’s imperative for employers to take strategic actions and find ways to differentiate the value proposition they offer to current and prospective workers.”

“Career development is an essential strategy for recruiting, developing and retaining productive and satisfied employees,” adds Ho. “This approach can address major challenges that employers face today. From finding underrepresented talent to providing career coaching to employees, companies can positively build a stronger workforce and contribute to Canada’s economic growth.”

Take a Hard Look at Soft Skills

Executives who have experienced more difficulty in employee retention (72 per cent) more often identify a skills gap in their industry (42 per cent) and are finding it increasingly more difficult to recruit people with the soft skills they deem important (40 per cent). While positive attitude and good communication skills continue to be seen as the two most important soft skills for prospective employers, the importance of reliability and dependability has increased by more than 100 per cent:

  1. Positive attitude (29 per cent vs 36 per cent in 2013)
  2. Communication skills (22 per cent vs 29 per cent in 2013)
  3. Reliability and dependability (21 per cent vs 9 per cent in 2013)
  4. Strong work ethic (18 per cent vs 23 per cent in 2013)
  5. Teamwork skills (16 per cent vs 25 per cent in 2013)

Many career development experts suggest soft skills are gaining the upper hand over hard skills. Occupations requiring good social skills are becoming more common and have even been described as critical for the future of work. The survey revealed executives are most likely to hire someone with soft skills who is a good fit and provide training (78 per cent).

The federal government has also taken action to prioritize soft skills with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) looking at ways of improving the Essential Skills Framework. In 2021, they released the Skills for Success [ii] which includes communication; creativity & innovation; problem solving; and adaptability, to name a few.

“Employers are increasingly looking for candidates with hybrid skills, which are a combination of soft and hard skills,” says Ho. “Canadians have the opportunity to develop and implement skills that might set them apart from other candidates. These new skills will also make them more effective at their current jobs and let them quickly adapt to changing industries and apply their skills and talents toward a fulfilling career.”

Investing in Career Development to Close the Skills Gap

While 73 per cent agree employers have a responsibility to provide career management programs for employees, only 27 per cent provide these programs and 45 per cent were unaware of career development professionals before this survey.

“Canadian executives have the unique opportunity to help Canadians take charge of their career by investing in development strategies that help employees identify personal strengths and clarify career goals that can positively contribute to job satisfaction,” says Raymond. “Working with a career professional can support organizations to build strategies that meet company needs and improve employee engagement, which ultimately leads to increased productivity, positive relationships, job clarity and a supportive work environment.”

Cannexus Conference – January 24-26, 2022

The findings from this Canadian survey were released during an industry expert panel discussion at Cannexus, Canada’s largest bilingual career development conference, from January 24-26, 2022. More than 1,500 career development professionals registered to participate in this virtual conference that includes more than 150 sessions on the latest research, policy and practices in career and workforce development.


CERIC is a charitable organization that advances education and research in career counselling and career development, in order to increase the economic and social well-being of Canadians. It funds projects to develop innovative resources that build the knowledge and skills of diverse career professionals; annually hosts Cannexus; and publishes the country’s only peer-reviewed academic journal in the field, Canadian Journal of Career Development. For more information, visit

To arrange an interview with a CERIC board member and industry expert or for more information, please contact: Sonia Prashar or Bronlynn Carrington at spPR Inc. I

[i] From November 18 – December 17, 2021, Environics conducted a national telephone survey among 501 randomly selected Canadian businesses. Interviews were conducted with senior level employees with awareness of, and responsibility for hiring, training and career development within the organization. Quotas were monitored to ensure that a minimum number of interviews were conducted within each region of Canada. The sample was designed to conduct interviews with senior staff of businesses across Canada, of various sizes, location (urban, rural and suburban), and industries. The margin of error is ± 4.4 percentage points, at the standard 95% confidence level.


CERIC releases 2020 Annual Report: A year like no other

With a theme of “Stretch, Support, Strive,” the 2020 CERIC Annual Report reflects on a year like no other. It was a year that took us to new and uncharted places, both as an organization and as a sector. We started the year with banner attendance at Cannexus, Canada’s Career Development Conference, in Ottawa in January 2020. By mid-March, our staff were working from home and CERIC began to respond to the fast-changing needs of career development stakeholders in the face of the global public health crisis. 

As Board Chair André Raymond and Executive Director Riz Ibrahim outline in their Leadership Message, CERIC sought to better understand how these needs were unfolding and what gaps were emerging. We did this through a series of periodic Pulse Surveys that took a recovery-oriented lens and showed remarkable resilience and innovation across career services in Canada. Our response included offering free webinars on timely topics like taking career and employment services online and managing mental and emotional well-being for both clients and career professionals. The pandemic also meant that we had to reimagine Cannexus in 2021 as a virtual offering. Being mindful of the economic uncertainties, we offered compelling rates and were also able to bring in new international partners with the pivot to virtual – all with a view to reimagining career development in this new reality where we found ourselves. 

Internally, CERIC took time in 2020 to fine-tune our new Strategic Plan. Early in the year, we revised our Vision (People in Canada have the capacity to use their skills and talents towards a more fulfilling future for all) and Mission (Advancing career development in Canada) and confirmed two mandates that would drive our work for the next few years. These are: “Promoting career development as a priority for the public good,” working with stakeholders across the career development ecosystem to advance efforts that show the social and economic value, and public benefit of career development; and, “Building career development knowledge, mindsets and competencies,” growing expertise and skills among career practitioners and educators through research, learning and acting as a hub for community.  

Highlights for CERIC that promote career development for public good: 

Key achievements for CERIC that build career development knowledge: 

  • Initiated a project to translate the popular book Career Theories and Models at Work: Ideas for Practice into French, with Japanese, Latvian and Estonian translations also in progress, extending its international reach 
  • In partnership with Memorial University, continued to expand knowledge by publishing two issues of the Canadian Journal of Career Development, Canada’s only peer-reviewed academic journal in the field 
  • Presented free webinars that addressed pandemic challenges and also offered paid series with partner associations in the field on highly relevant topics such as supporting positive outcomes for Black students, with a total of 19,887 webinar registrations 
  • Hosted Cannexus, Jan. 27-29, 2020 in Ottawa, bringing together a record number of 1,258 delegates to learn about and discuss the issues shaping work and well-being in Canada, including workforce development, youth employment and reconciliation 
  • Produced timely resources through CERIC’s popular bilingual content communities, CareerWise and OrientAction (in partnership with Quebec-based GRICS), to help Canada’s career development professionals navigate a rapidly changing reality  
  • Conducted a series of CERIC Recovery Pulse Surveys with 1,146 career and employment professionals to track the effects of COVID-19 on career services across the country, with data showing resilience and innovation  
  • Engaged the next generation of career development researchers through our Graduate Student Engagement Program (GSEP), adding 39 students currently enrolled in full-time master’s and PhD programs  
  • Issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) on the linkages between experiential learning and career development to effectively bridge the gap between the classroom and the world of work  
  • Announced the award of the Career Development in Children: Identifying Critical Success Conditions and Strategies project, which will examine how foundational skills introduced by classroom teachers connect to career-related learning in grades 4-6 

In addition to these highlights, as well as inclusion of financial statements, the CERIC 2020 Annual Report also includes an acknowledgement of CERIC staff this past year as well as a special thank you to the CERIC Board and Advisory Committee volunteers who helped us navigate through these uncharted waters and to our funder, The Counselling Foundation of Canada, for its unwavering support. 


Settlement counsellors need 8 critical competencies as role changes with rising immigration levels

There is a pressing need for greater training of settlement counsellors – those on the front lines of welcoming newcomers to Canada – as their role changes in response to rising immigration levels and an increasingly complex settlement landscape, according to a new CERIC-funded project research report. The pan-Canadian research from two Toronto-based consultants identifies eight critical competencies that could form the basis of training to help settlement counsellors be successful as the job is redefined and the range of work is extended. While the focus is on the role of settlement counsellors, many of the insights, conclusions and recommendations can be applied to other categories of front-line settlement workers.

Canada is widely acknowledged to have one of the strongest settlement sectors in the world. At its core are 500 non-profit organizations that deliver programs and services to help newcomers adjust to life in Canada, including by improving their labour market outcomes. Front-line settlement counsellors are one of the initial points of contact for immigrants, helping them adapt and participate in Canadian society. But with the ongoing rise in immigration levels that will see more than one million newcomers welcomed between 2019 and 2021, the report highlights that settlement service agencies cannot address the challenges alone.

The report, The Competencies of Frontline Settlement Counsellors in Canada, from Iren Koltermann of eCaliber Group and Dan Scott of Calience Research and Consulting, found that the work of settlement counsellors needs to go beyond a traditional approach of providing direct services to immigrants to include building capacity in communities that welcome newcomers. The role of settlement counsellors now fundamentally has two parts, each based on capacity-building: empowering newcomers and empowering destination communities.

Direct services – historically the main purpose of the settlement sector – involve assessing the needs of newcomers and providing appropriate information, orientation, referrals and direct assistance such as helping them navigate legal services, housing, healthcare, education, employment and language training, and assisting them to appreciate Canadian society and Canadian culture.

The emerging aspect of the role of settlement counsellors is focused on building capacity in the existing community to be inclusive of newcomers. This involves advocating to overcome biases and systemic barriers that prevent immigrants from participating in society and in creating environments based on “unity in diversity.” The report makes the case that this aspect is becoming more urgent and requires greater attention.

The eight critical competencies to help settlement counsellors be successful include the ability to:

  • Discern the strengths and identify the needs of newcomers
  • Assist newcomers to navigate social and economic systems
  • Help newcomers gain understanding of Canadian society and culture, and nurture a sense of belonging
  • Advocate for the well-being of newcomers
  • Contribute to building environments of unity in diversity
  • Uphold integrity
  • Promote learning
  • Foster initiative

Research for the report involved conducting 40 in-depth interviews and five focus groups with settlement counsellors, managers and regional co-ordinators in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia about how their work is evolving and their training needs.

The counsellors interviewed had diverse educational backgrounds, most including a university degree. Only about a quarter had studied for a diploma or certificate related to the settlement sector. In the interviews, several managers indicated they prefer to hire those who have themselves immigrated to Canada, the rationale being that it is possible to train people in the knowledge of Canada but not in the experience of leaving your homeland and resettling in another country. Maximum salary levels for settlement counsellors ranged from $46,000 to $52,000 per year. Retention was identified as an obstacle given low wages generally in the sector. Additionally, most settlement counsellors were satisfied to remain in the role and did not aspire to higher positions within the field. However, those interested in career progression found that accessing the training they need for leadership positions is a barrier.

This CERIC-funded project was conceived as a contribution toward a growing body of knowledge used by settlement agencies to:

  • Raise the profile of settlement workers;
  • Help identify potential candidates for the role;
  • Provide initial and ongoing training; and
  • Ensure talent is well nurtured.

A background report released in January explored the historic and current realities in Canada’s settlement sector. The ongoing research has had two interrelated aims:

The first is to gain insight into the work of settlement counsellors and map the career path of this position.

Settlement Counsellor Career Pathway

The second is to identify a competency model for settlement counsellors that can form the foundation for effective and affordable training.

Competencies of a Settlement Counsellor

The authors of the report believe the complex challenges of settlement will require government funders, educational institutions and settlement providers themselves to support training that develops these competencies and carves out career paths in the sector. Given the critical role settlement counsellors play in improving integration for newcomers, increasing the capacity of welcoming communities and enhancing public support for immigration, the value of the services provided by these workers will only continue to rise as immigration levels grow.

Learn more about this project and access the reports at Also watch for an announcement of a free webinar and roadshow that will share the report findings.


Editor’s Note

By Lucie Morillon

There’s no doubt that Canada is a diverse country, in its landscapes but also, and more importantly, in its people. More than 20% of Canada’s 35 million people were born outside this country, helping to make it one of the world’s most socially diverse societies, according to the Global Centre for Pluralism.


Principles in Action: Understanding, Navigating and Choosing Career Options

By Stephen Landry

With a goal of bringing greater clarity and consistency to our national conversations about career development, CERIC developed a set of “Guiding Principles of Career Development” that have been enthusiastically embraced across Canada. These eight Guiding Principles are intended as a starting point to inform discussions with clients, employers, funders, policymakers and families.

Each issue of Careering features a Guiding Principle “in action,” exploring how a career professional is applying a Principle in practice.

One of the greatest challenges we face as career development practitioners is helping our clients understand options, navigate their careers with purpose and make informed choices.

The Canadian Forces Is All About Diversity

By Josephine Hendricks

Overcoming lack of awareness of career and education options in the Army, Navy and Air Force

The Canadian Forces Recruiting Group Headquarters (CFRG HQ) is all about diversity. Putting words into action, diversity at CFRG HQ is approached in a number of ways: First, is the building of meaningful relationships with community leaders and representatives. The greatest barrier to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is the lack of familiarity with CAF careers by the broader Canadian public. Having conversations with community leaders and individuals is essential towards bringing awareness about various careers and education possibilities within the CAF.


10 Questions for Deborah Saucier

Dr Deborah Saucier is an accomplished academic and successful university administrator. In July 2017, Dr Saucier joined MacEwan University as President. Before coming to MacEwan, she spent six years at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, ON, as Provost and Vice-President, Academic and also as the former Dean of Science.