Executive summary

While Canada has experienced a fairly solid labour market recovery, prospects for growth remain cloudy due to volatility from low oil prices and increasing household debt. Demographic pressures require productivity improvements in the economy and a need to make better use of the existing skills of the workforce. Employment and skills policies are critical levers in boosting economic development opportunities but effective implementation requires strong capacity at the local level.

The OECD Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) programme has developed its reviews on Local Job Creation as an international cross-comparative study to examine the contributions of local labour market policy to boosting quality employment and productivity. To help Canada respond to current and future labour market challenges, this review has looked at a range of institutions and bodies involved in employment and skills development policies. In addition to reviewing the national policy framework, in-depth work was undertaken across four local areas within two jurisdictions in Canada to understand local implementation capacities and opportunities: the Yukon and Saskatchewan.

Indigenous Peoples in Canada face a number of significant employment and economic development challenges. Unemployment for Indigenous Peoples in Canada was 12.4% in 2015, which is double the rate of the non-indigenous population of 6.8%. The Canadian Government has signalled its intention to “renew” its relationship with its Indigenous Peoples. A key focus of this OECD review was on emerging employment and economic development opportunities for indigenous communities. Self-government agreements are changing the face of indigenous governance and altering the relationship between these communities and the federal government.

Yukon’s labour market activities are driven from the conclusion of a Labour Market Framework agreement, which includes a far-reaching series of stakeholder committees covering skills and training; immigration; labour market information; and recruitment and employee retention. This agreement provides the basis to stimulate robust networks at the local level and establish stronger mechanisms to increase the voice of employers in skills development opportunities. In Saskatchewan, the Plan for Growth has been effective in focusing and coordinating the efforts of various Ministries by providing an integrated approach and promoting better cross ministry policy co-ordination. However, more needs to be done to integrate service arrangements at the local level in cities such as Regina for the benefit for job seekers and employers.

Over 30% of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples live in either Saskatchewan or the Yukon. Overall, the OECD review found that the Yukon and Saskatchewan have demonstrated leadership in establishing stronger “government to government” relationships with indigenous communities. Strong efforts are being made in both regions to improve access to employment and skills development opportunities through a number of innovative programmes. Going forward, sustained efforts must be placed on providing indigenous communities with job opportunities that will contribute to their overall economic and social well-being. Building the leadership and governance capacities of indigenous communities should be a priority. The following key conclusions and recommendations are intended to help build and expand on the recent and ongoing reforms in Canada.

Key conclusions and recommendations

Recommendations for boosting local employment and economic development opportunities of indigenous communities

  • Recognise that provincial and territorial governments are playing an increasingly active role in indigenous communities and have considerable incentives to ensure successful economic and social development. This may well involve rethinking the federal leadership role in areas where provinces and territories have strong capacity and competence.

  • Strategically use public procurement policies to add conditions on contracts around the employment of indigenous individuals and/or to increase the number of apprenticeship and training opportunities.

  • Strengthen leadership capacities and facilitate information sharing to enable identification of the most promising conditions for success across Canada’s indigenous communities by establishing a repository of effective practices in promoting indigenous employment and skills development activities.

Towards an action plan for jobs: Recommendations for Saskatchewan

  • Promote stronger local employment and economic development networks and inject greater flexibility into the management and implementation of policies at the local level.

  • Encourage labour market development stakeholders – including colleges and universities – to become more engaged in accessing, analyzing, and producing local labour market information. This includes developing stronger forecasting methods of future skill needs as well as informing students of potential job opportunities.

  • Expand the use of demand driven training through stronger linkages with local employers (especially SMEs) and embed skills policies in economic development thinking.

  • Implement a comprehensive provincial youth employment strategy which focuses on employment and job creation as well as smoother transitions into the labour market.

Towards an action plan for jobs: Recommendations for Yukon

  • Build on the success of the Labour Market Framework by establishing local networks in communities in the Yukon that would be tasked with developing employment and economic development plans. These networks should involve employers and be closely connected to the training system.

  • Place policy priority on increasing the engagement of employers with the vocational education system to ensure they are providing advice on the relevancy of programmes and curriculum.

  • Develop an entrepreneurship strategy, which focuses on youth and older workers and Indigenous Peoples as a tool for economic adjustment and job creation.

  • Develop a youth employment strategy focusing on pathways to success with the goal of reducing early school leaving, increasing participation in postsecondary education and connecting low-skilled youth to the labour market.

  • Establish a balance between employers needs for workers and job seekers needs for entry-level opportunities by instituting a requirement for a labour market assessment as part of the process of determining what skills will be sought through the Provincial Nominee Program.