Moving Forward Together: An Employer Perspective on the Design of Skills Training Programs in Ontario

This report presents the business perspective on the steps the Government of Ontario can take as it evolves the province’s suite of training and employment services. Specifically, this report makes five recommendations that, if taken, will go a long way in ensuring employer-driven training and employment programs, such as the Canada-Ontario Job Grant, are a success.

Throughout our research process, we found that despite falling behind their international peers when it comes to investing in the skills of their employees, Ontario employers are interested and willing to participate in revamped training programs. However, current employee training in Ontario is heavily concentrated among large firms and within certain, often regulated, industries. In fact, there is little substantive training being performed by small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Employers are not training due to a couple of key factors, including cost, risk of turnover and ‘poaching’, and a lack of human resource capacity. The success of employer-driven training programs is contingent on employer engagement. It is vital that government design training and employment programs so that they overcome these barriers. Training and employment programs should be easy to access for businesses, offer flexible training options to the workers who need it, and make room for not-for-profit and private service providers to play an intermediary role in the new training and employment system.

Similarly, employers need to get more engaged in building the skills of their employees. Ontario’s population is aging and our workforce is shrinking. Some 28 percent of OCC members are having trouble filling job vacancies. Yet, unemployment levels are stubbornly high.

These recommendations are a product of extensive consultation with employers throughout the province. In Spring 2014, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and Essential Skills Ontario (ESO), in collaboration with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, travelled across the province and met with employers of all sizes, as well as representatives from postsecondary and training institutions.


ICE Committee