Canada’s labour market training system is broken for workers. But just because it’s broken for workers doesn’t mean that no one benefits.
Corporations, despite periodic complaints about a “skills gap” in the Canadian labour market have it pretty good. They are not compelled by governments to spend more on training (in fact Canadian companies spend very little compared to companies in other countries) and often governments will subsidize their training costs.
These are some of the observations Athabasca University Professor of Labour Relations Bob Barnetson makes in his new book, Canada’s Labour Market Training System.
Barnetson explains that he is looking at the labour market training system in Canada through a political lens. And by doing so, he demonstrates who is losing out and who is benefiting.
Not surprisingly, Barnetson finds that the neoliberal economic model is not helping workers develop skills let alone receive good wages and benefits.
And despite neoliberalism’s superficial acknowledgement of the benefits of diversity, Barnetson demonstrates that having a patch work system of job training where governments usually defer to the private sector does nothing to close gender or racial wage gaps or eliminate job ghettos.
Though the book is aimed at an undergraduate student audience, this is a book that activists should read.
It’s clear and concise at just under 200 pages. Barnetson explains his methodology and provides a glossary of the concepts he uses.
As the book shows the labour market training system in Canada is a patchwork of of federal, provincial, and public-private programs. Barnetson explains what all the different programs are and how they do or do not benefit workers. Barnetson also situates the labour market training system within policies towards post-secondary education, immigration, and temporary foreign workers. These policies all interact with one another, and not in positive ways
If nothing else, read it in order to explain to the people around you that any politician complaining about a skills gap is full of BS.
Canada’s Labour Market Training System allows us to understand the current system and where to challenge it in order to gain justice for all workers from women trapped in low paid work to temporary foreign workers who can basically be deported at the whim of their employer.
In the closing pages, Barnetson says we need to think of the labour market training system as a political system that involves different actors and forces. Business wants trained workers available to them at the lowest cost possible to them and that government intervention in the labour market is not automatically good.
That’s why this book is such a good read. It makes us think beyond class struggle on the shop floor, and forces us to realize that systems and policies that reproduce the labour market are something that need to be targeted and transformed in order to increase working class power.