That was one of the first points Goldy Hyder made to me when I chatted with him earlier this year.
Hyder is President and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, a non-partisan, non-profit association of business leaders. But in talking with him, it quickly becomes obvious that Hyder is a visionary. He sees where we’ve been, where we’re at, and most importantly, where we’re headed – both as an economy and a society.
“As I like to remind people, every unfilled job is a person not paying for your health care, education, roads, and other things. We have got to take very seriously that when there is a talent shortage, we must ask ourselves what we’re doing to ensure that we can fill that pipeline? Because the reality is Canada, as much as it’s known for its natural resources, is also known for its human resources. We have smart people in the country. We have a good education system. We need to do everything that we can to recruit, retrain, and attract talent.”
This is a challenge I spend a lot of time thinking about too, so I was excited for the chance to talk with Goldy about it. He’s constantly speaking with business leaders in every imaginable field. So, I asked him what he’s hearing from them about how we step up to meet the coming talent gap.
He told me that first we need to get better at upskilling and reskilling. (An Accenture report says the G20 could lose $11.5 trillion in GDP growth in the next decade if we fail to keep up on technical skills.) But, as Goldy points out, that’s not enough.
“A lot of these — what are called — hard skills, might only have a three to five-year shelf life today because of automation, but your soft skills are something durable that last.” When he’s talking with his members who are all major business leaders representing a broad spectrum of industries in Canada, he constantly hears: “We need more people who can think. We need more people who can problem-solve.”
He points out an excellent approach that a group of international business students shared with him recently. They said that back in their home countries, business students and public policy students talk all the time. “They told me, ‘We meet, we debate, we build relationships.’ That helps build mutual respect and understanding that they carry forward for the rest of their careers.”
That same spirit of collaboration is behind the Business/Higher Education Roundtable, an initiative the Business Council launched five years ago. It’s bringing together business leaders and post-secondary education leaders to improve opportunities for young Canadians through innovative approaches like work-integrated learning and research partnerships.
When I asked Goldy where education needs to be in 10 years, he said technology must play a key role, and learning needs to be better integrated into both workplaces and career paths. “We need to create opportunities for people to learn on the job, but also have opportunities to get away from the job to learn. They come back able to extend their life with you as an employer, which is both good for you and good for them.”
Goldy Hyder has a clear view of the challenges we face, and he’s both engaged and strongly optimistic. “Too many people are waiting for someone to do something,” he says. “We are that someone. It is us. Let’s lead the charge.”