Chamber speaker highlights skilled labour shortage

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Matt Gardner
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The keynote speaker at the Prince Albert & District Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Night said the province needs to provide more pathways for attracting skilled workers.

First Nations University of Canada president Doyle Anderson was the keynote speaker at the Prince Albert & District Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Night on Tuesday.

Speaking on Tuesday evening in the Chas Leach Lounge at the Art Hauser Centre, First Nations University of Canada president Doyle Anderson noted that current demand in the resource sector for employees with special qualifications far outstrips the supply.

“There are 200,000 positions in engineering and geosciences and business areas … in the mining sector in Canada,” Anderson said. “In the next four years, 100,000 of those positions will be empty. They’ll be retiring, and the mining sector has no plan. They have no viable strategy to be able to fill that gap. And so we are at a point where that will become the critical ingredient to our economic prosperity being sustained in Saskatchewan … filling that talent void.”

To solve this problem, Anderson suggested hitting two birds with one stone: A member of the Red Pheasant First Nation, he believes strongly in the need to engage more Aboriginal people in the business community.

Anderson has been at the forefront of that mission since he was first asked to run a business program at the University of Saskatchewan. Prior to his arrival, the College of Commerce had produced only five Aboriginal graduates in 80 years. In Anderson’s first graduating class, there were 14.

The university president placed great emphasis on the need to create a new generation of Aboriginal business leaders, particularly in the resource sector.

“The message from the corporate world in the mining sector and energy sector has been, ‘There’s a glass ceiling,’” Anderson said. “There are a lot of Aboriginal workers in these organizations that are trapped under a glass ceiling. The key has been being able to move beyond the glass ceiling and come into some of those key roles, and they haven’t been able to crack the code on that.

“That’s actually our priority mission right now is doing that -- being able to help provide pathways through life skills programming into access and transition education programming, (to) provide ladders into trades (and) technical college programming, but also into university education.”

Anderson said improving capacity development is the key to fuelling Saskatchewan’s future economic development. But he stressed that the best way to achieve this is by going back into communities.

It’s really a matter of bringing together the key players -- who are the communities, industry, and government -- to come together and work collectively. Doyle Anderson

“It’s really a matter of bringing together the key players -- who are the communities, industry, and government -- to come together and work collectively, and then to be able to reach back into the communities,” Anderson said.

“There are so many people who have fallen out of the educational system, (we need to) help re-engage them, bring them in through life skills education, adult basic education into access transition education programming -- basically providing on-ramps into these types of career opportunities for our young people.”

Anderson’s speech formed only one part of the Chamber’s annual Chairman’s Night, the purpose of which is to acknowledge the turnover of the Chamber board and its chair. Michael Mitchell, co-owner of Tyrone Pest Control Services, was named the new chairman and gave his inaugural remarks.

This year’s event was notable for marking the Chamber’s 125th anniversary. The evening saw a lifetime achievement award bestowed upon accountant Craig Mitchell for his years of volunteer work.

“His award … will actually be a lifetime membership with the Chamber,” P.A. Chamber of Commerce CEO Merle Lacert said early in the evening. “That’s to acknowledge … significant contributions that he’s made over the years to basically both the Chamber and the Community.

“Another award that we’ll be looking to give tonight as well (is to) Mr. Richard Ahenakew … our emcee. We’ll … be looking to present him with an award to recognize him as well for his significant contributions to the community, as well as his accomplishments with the Saskatchewan Chamber, as he was the past chair.”

Aside from dinner and cocktails, Chairman’s Night featured raffle prizes and a live auction to raise $200,000 for scholarships to the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology.

Organizations: College of Commerce, Art Hauser Centre, First Nations University of Canada University of Saskatchewan Chamber board Tyrone Pest Control Services Saskatchewan Chamber Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Canada

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