Canada’s automotive industry can learn a lot from software giants such as Microsoft Corp. about using internships and other post-secondary school partnerships to fill a looming skills gap, the 2020 Automotive News Canada Congress heard last week.
Too few post-secondary students are being prepared for the jobs of the future and, in particular, the impact of robotics, said John Stackhouse, senior vice-president, Office of the COE, Royal Bank of Canada.
“At RBC, we consider this a quiet crisis,” he said in a speech at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre Feb. 13.
Contrary to popular belief, technological change will create more jobs in the future, not fewer, he said. Many will require the so-called soft skills, such as complex problem solving, critical thinking and communication, that are common to many professions, he said. But workers will require retraining in specific skills to take on news tasks.
Traditional auto industry jobs, such as service mechanic, are changing, he noted, opening them up to new groups of workers. A field traditionally dominated by men, the job now requires more computer and communication skills than physical strength.
“It’s no longer the grease-monkey skills from decades past. I see this as a tremendous opportunity.”
One solution to the looming skills shortage is for the auto industry to partner with more post-secondary institutions to tap into new labour pools, including underrepresented groups like women and indigenous Canadians, he said.
Investing in training and development costs money, he acknowledged.
“But we can’t afford not to do this. The labour shortage is so great.”
In exchange, business can benefit from the fresh perspective young trainees bring, he added.
“There are 7 millennials in Canada who have grown up completely digital, who understand your problems differently,” Stackhouse said.