Blaming Students for the Supposed Lack of Skilled Tradespeople Is Nonsense | Citizens' Press

| August 15, 2013

Categories: students


The neo-liberal promise of a future with high demand for knowledge economy workers (that never came) moved many away from skilled-trades and toward university degrees. For the Tories to now blame students for getting BAs instead of going to trades college and becoming a welder shows both a cynical disregard of history and this government’s own incompetence when it comes to economic planning. Workers and students must show that the alternative to the Tory economic program is the only way forward that will work for Canada.


According to news reports from this morning, a main focus of the upcoming federal budget will be training skilled workers.

Unfortunately for Canadians, policy like this from the Conservatives means more commercialization of university research, short-term and market-driven training priorities for colleges and public funding for privatized post-secondary education institutions. All these policies have been and continue to be failed post-secondary education training and research strategies that undermine an accessible and public system.

Contrary to what the Tories would have us believe, this will not be a shift in strategy from the previous twenty years. Instead, it is an intensification of the short-term market driven approach championed by current and previous neo-liberal Conservative and Liberal governments.

The strategy has been an abject failure as measured by their own standards. Canadian innovation is at the bottom of the OECD list of developed countries. Students have been directed in the wrong direction for training (and for the wrong reasons) and too much power has been handed over to the private sector monopolies to set PSE policy. To intensify these programs will further undermine the medium to long-term viability of the Canadian economy.

The Conservative’s ham-handed approach to graduate academic funding has meant a slowdown in Canadian innovation and an academic system too focused on specific skills-training. To then go on and blame of students (apparently known as “kids” to the government) for the “skilled trades” shortage is cynical nonsense.

It is a rather cruel joke to suggest the Prime Minister is somehow “upset” over this lack of congruence between skill training and jobs. The policies of the Conservative government to drive-down wages in the skilled-trades and the focus on temporary-foreign workers and Employment Insurance policy adjustment to drive down these wages makes it difficult to find Canadian-trained workers to take these jobs.

The resource extraction industry focus of the Conservatives has also resulted in an unequal and imbalanced economic development strategy for Canada. Some areas in some provinces are doing well, but everywhere else has been attacked with regressive and damaging cuts that undermine those local economies. Regressive reforms targeted on seasonal workers that use Employment Insurance, cutting support for local cooperatives and planned reductions in transfer payments to the provinces for social services all result in already depressed regions getting hit harder. This does not lend itself to a well managed national economic strategy and undermines economic development of the country as a whole.

The high cost of tuition fees across most of the country means getting either trained or retrained forces people to seek more readily available jobs away from home. Again, this adds to the imbalanced nature of Canadian economic growth and exploitation of workers in stress communities turning them into an internal migrant workforce.

The government has been going on and on about the shift to the knowledge economy and the need for knowledge workers and is now “upset” that is all we have? It is ridiculous and exposes true Conservative incompetence when it comes to long-term economic policy programs.

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